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Israeli Town Wagers on a Racetrack

7 September 2004

NIR YAFE, Israel -- As reported by the Baltimore Sun: "It seems a far-fetched scheme for this farm village: With outside investors, community leaders want to build a track for horse racing, although Israelis hardly know the sport and two of the principal promoters acknowledge that they have never seen thoroughbreds thunder around a dirt oval.

"The promoters do know that farming collectives in northern Israel are struggling. More than half the farmers no longer farm, and those who do need second jobs to support their families.

"The community wants to carve a track from olive groves and fruit trees and build a resort with hotels and restaurants that could create 3,000 jobs. Farmers would switch from growing olives to baling hay and working the stables.

"A committee in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and the ministry of agriculture have endorsed the plan as a way of raising much-needed revenue for the Gilboa region. The plan must be approved by other government officials.

"Most of the roughly 200 residents of Nir Yafe are emigrants from Morocco, Tunisia, and Kurdistan. Their community is an agricultural collective known as a moshav, but it consists largely of dilapidated houses, unkempt lawns, and abandoned cars. Unemployment in the area is about 50 percent.

"...Organizers say an initial investment of $20 million could bring in $220 million in revenue the first year..."

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