The ad text contains all the code words for "exclusive community." The small print at the bottom lists all the legal mumbo-jumbo, including the following (taken here from their website, which shall not be linked, to protect the innocent):
And what skin color do all the models have? I'll give you one guess.
Now jump to an article in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times (worth reading, to gain an understanding of the context).
After he bought his first home, state Assemblyman Hector De La Torre uncovered a dark chapter in its history: A covenant attached to the original deed declared that the house, like all the others in his South Gate neighborhood, could be occupied by white people only. Minorities could stay there -- but only as servants.Turns out that a 1948 law declared these covenants legally unenforceable; however, Mr. De La Torre wishes to improve on the situation:
It is a discovery that has startled any number of California homeowners. Many of the state's vast subdivisions, particularly in Los Angeles County, were once governed by restrictive racial covenants designed to enforce segregation. Those covenants have been illegal for more than half a century, but their offensive rules remain part of some deeds. Most home buyers encounter the issue when they are asked to sign a disclosure as part of the escrow process, pledging to ignore any racist language.
This year, he proposed a law that would require racially restrictive covenants -- it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands statewide -- to be stricken from the public record at the time of the next sale.The covenants were created in the 1920's, 30's and 40's, primarily to keep Blacks (as well as "Jews, Italians, Russians, Muslims, Latinos and Asians") out of housing developments. According to one L.A. city councilman, the unequal distribution of resources from back then, is still felt today. (And yes, there are people protesting the law, on historical and bureaucratic grounds).
Dismaying, and yet I cannot take the moral high ground. Why not? Because for one, I live in a place that has a covenant of its own. In order to purchase our house, we had to be approved by a committee of moshav members and residents. We had to show that we were Shomrei Shabbat, and that we were "stable" people (hmmm....).
Now, I'm all for stability, mental and otherwise, and after having had it each way, I would definitely choose to live in a community that observes Shabbat, since Shabbat really does require a minimum level of community observance and togetherness to be fully felt.
As for the ethnicity issue, that one's a doozy. The founders of our moshav are of North African descent, and we in the neighborhood will forever be the "Ashkenazim," with all its colorful implications. (Now there's multiculturalism). It's not at all clear how many people on our moshav, from either cultural background, would be willing to relinquish racially-based housing covenants, were we to have them.
Israel is made up of many types of communities. There are cities, such as Yaffo (Jaffa) and Haifa, as well as smaller communities in the Galil, where people different cultures live together with a certain level of ease not found in, say, Jerusalem and its surroundings. There are stories of Muslim families who have fought legal battles to live in Jewish-owned neighborhoods and apartment buildings in Tel Aviv and its environs, and stories of Jewish families staking out claims in Muslim neighborhoods.
If these examples are too intense for you, let's get back to something most of us can agree on, like all the Ethiopians we air-lifted on rescue missions, only to confine them to dead-end "development" towns like Dimona and Ofakim. And what about "guest" workers? They're not even on the map. We invite them in to do our dirty work, only to chase them down and throw them out.
Bottom line: these covenants -- both written and unwritten -- certainly exist today, within Israel and without, at all levels of society. I think all of us can do better.
Keep the balance,