Jews and Arabs unite against Charedi town

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY BEN LYN­FIELD HAIFA

ARAB IS­RAELIS and Jewish kib­butz mem­bers are both try­ing to stop the build­ing of the first Charedi city in north­ern Is­rael. But the kib­butzniks are wary of be­ing seen as work­ing too closely with Arabs, fear­ing Jewish pub­lic opin­ion.

Plans spear­headed by the strictly Or­tho­dox Shas party call for the ex­pan­sion of the small com­mu­nity of Har­ish, in the heav­ily Arab Wadi Ara re­gion, into a Charedi city of 150,000 peo­ple.

The Hous­ing Min­is­ter, Nis­sim Da­han of Shas, has stoked anti-Arab sen­ti­ment in his ef­forts to mar­ket the project, say­ing in July it was a “na­tional duty to pre­vent the spread of a pop­u­la­tion that to say the least does not love the state of Is­rael”.

Riyadh Kabha, the for­mer mayor of Barta’a — which bor­ders the area to be de­vel­oped — has ap­peared to­gether with Ilan Sadeh, the lo­cal coun­cil head, at plan­ning com­mis­sion meet­ings.

He said the city would take 400 dunams of vil­lage land, block the town’s ex­pan­sion when it is al­ready fac­ing a hous­ing short­age and bring the new Charedi neigh­bours to within 100 me­tres of Barta’a houses.

“The char­ac­ter of the area will change,” he added. “They will try to im­pose their life­style.”

Arik Hat­zor, a Kib­butz Maanit res­i­dent who is head­ing the cam­paign to op­pose the plan, voiced sim­i­lar fears.

“We have ac­tiv­i­ties ev­ery Shab­bat and hol­i­day. The shop­ping cen­tres are open and this pro­vides in­come to thou­sands. We know ex­actly who will dic­tate to whom the way of life. We have seen it hap­pen in Jerusalem.”

Land would also have to be ex­pro­pri­ated from Kib­butz Met­zer.

Mr Kabha called the bat­tle against the city “a joint strug­gle”.

But coun­cil head Mr Sadeh is more cir­cum­spect, say­ing the Arab leaders “know what we are do­ing and vice versa. We all agree that the city should only be of a lim­ited size.”

Ariel Atias, the mayor of Har­ish, said that the large town is nec­es­sary to ad­dress a se­vere Charedi hous­ing short­age and to pre­vent Arab de­mo­graphic pri­macy in the area.

Ten dif­fer­ent Cha­sidic de­nom­i­na­tions are each to be al­lo­cated 3,000 hous­ing units.

Mr Sadeh said that he does not want the pub­lic to per­ceive the op­po­si­tion to the city as a strug­gle for Arab rights, es­pe­cially given the Arab demon­stra­tions in the area in 2000, dur­ing which 13 Arabs were killed by se­cu­rity forces.

“We have to as­sess what is good and what is not good for the strug­gle. Most of the pub­lic will say about the plans ‘great, let’s show the Arabs who ri­oted in 2000 who the boss is here.’”

Sev­eral all-Charedi towns, such a Beitar Il­lit in the West Bank, al­ready ex­ist

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