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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim 5778

P'ninat Mishpat: Muncipal Dues in a Yishuv

(based on ruling 76111 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) is an aguda shitufit (i.e., joint community) and the defendants (=def) are residents of a new section of the yishuv. The aguda is supposed to provide its residents with support in various elements of communal and personal life and is recognized, along with its charter, as an organization by the relevant authorities. A year ago, pl informed members of the yishuv that they are required to pay 6,000 shekels per couple to renovate a public building. Def and a member of pl’s board reached a compromise proposal based on which they would contribute 9,000 shekels from their charity fund to be used for whatever purposes pl decided. Def gave the money; the full board did not accept the proposal. Some time later def reserved pl’s social hall for a simcha. Due to tension between the sides, it was unclear until soon before whether def would be allowed to use it. Pl claims that as members of the aguda, def is obligated to pay continual fees of 4,106 shekels, along with 6,000 shekels for the one-time expense. Def claim that the obligations are unfair because members of the kibbutz, which founded the yishuv, are preferred members of the aguda, who pay less than residents of the expanded areas. Pl responded that members of the kibbutz either paid for development over many years or paid extra money to join the kibbutz. In fact, this provision is part of the charter that was accepted by the Rasham Ha’amutot (NPO Registry). Def deny registering as members of the aguda, who need to pay, and argue that landowners in such places no longer are required to be members. They admit that in the past they were involved in pl because they thought they were members but have since learned that they are not. Def also argue that since they already paid 9,000 shekels based on a compromise understanding, it is unacceptable for pl to reject the compromise. They also say that although they lost 4,000 shekels in looking for alternatives for their simcha due to pl’s threat regarding the hall, they will accept an apology.   


Ruling: There are several indications that def are members of the aguda, including their application for that status. Even if they are no longer required by law to be members, there is not sufficient indication that they are not such today. Therefore, in accordance with the charter, they are required to pay the 6,000 shekels in question. There is enough logic to distinguish between different categories of residence for the different municipal fees to not be considered discriminatory. Additionally, def admitted to promising to pay the money before being given permission to use the hall for a simcha, and it is illegitimate to agree to payment in return for rights and then renege on the agreement.

The 9,000 shekel donation is certainly a large one that indicates it had a purpose. However, there is strong evidence that def knew that the compromise was not accepted, and thus def was acting in bad faith. However, since there were irregularities in pl’s bookkeeping, pl cannot demand any payment that it cannot demonstrate are due.

Regarding use of the hall, pl acted improperly in temporarily rescinding def’s right to use it based on a dispute. Grievances over payments should have been dealt with without intimidation. Therefore, beit din presents a text of an apology which pl are responsible to make.

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