Haredi town planned where Arab construction banned
By Zafrir Rinat • Ha'aretz
For years now, residents of the village of Dar al-Hanun in the Wadi Ara region have been trying to obtain legal status for their community. So far, planning committees have always refused, because the village is located in an area whose landscape is so rare and precious that it is slated for conservation.
Tomorrow, however, the National Planning and Building Committee is to discuss a Housing Ministry proposal to expand the jurisdiction of another community located not far from Dar al-Hanun, and which abuts this very same area - the town of Harish. The plan calls for building a large Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city for approximately 150,000 residents. It is being promoted by Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias (Shas), with help from former Shas MK Nissim Dahan, who is currently the Interior Ministry-appointed head of the Katzir-Harish Local Council.
The new city is slated to be built on a tract of valuable open land that includes forested areas. It will be located not far from Dar al-Hanun, which was established in the 1920s by the Abu Hilal clan and currently consists of 15 houses belonging to members of that clan.
"I am not opposed to the expansion of Harish, but to the discrimination - that I cannot obtain recognition of the home I have lived in for decades," said Mustafa Abu Hilal, chairman of the Dar al-Hanun council. "We will become an enclave in the city without our problem having been solved. A demolition order has been issued for my house, and now a new community is going up next door. That's not the way a proper country should be run, and I see it as discrimination and racism."
Abu Hilal believes that the state's recent efforts to demolish homes in the village is intended to get the residents to agree to evacuate in order to make way for the development of the ultra-Orthodox town. "We'll fight this decision, and if solutions are not found, there will be constant conflict here," he warned.
Another opponent of the planned expansion is Ilan Sadeh, head of the Menashe Regional Council, some of whose lands are to be taken by the new city. "This means damage to the areas of the kibbutzim and moshavim and damage to private Arab land," he said. "It's inconceivable that Jewish and Arab villages were denied expansion permits to protect these green spaces, but now they are approving an ultra-Orthodox town on those same lands."
As an example of the damage Menashe communities will suffer, Sadeh cited Kibbutz Metzer, which has cultivated orchards for years on land that is now slated to be given over to the new city.
The Housing Ministry said that building the city of Harish will provide essential housing solutions for the ultra-Orthodox sector for decades to come. It also said the city would be built on land zoned for urban development under the national master plan.
And it told Bimkom, an association of planners that expressed concern about the impact the city would have on the development of surrounding communities, that the city's planning will take the development plans of nearby Jewish and Arab communities into consideration.
UPDATE 9:50 PM 9-7-09 – The Jerusalem Post's coverage has just been posted, and the level of bias in the reporting by Matthew Wagner is appallingly clear.
Wagner buries the main point of the story – that the Arab town has been stopped from expanding for years. He also buries the rationale given for that: the need for green space. Worse yet, he only quotes an Arab with regard to this, and doesn't ask others about it.
On top of that, Wagner spends much space on the haredi housing crisis, but does so without mentioning Shas's role in this land grab.
And he paints the secular Jews who oppose this haredi land grab as bigots (which they may be) but he leaves out of the story their very real concern for the damage the new town would do to their orchards and fields, and to the state-owned green space.
As I noted last week, Wagner is a problematic journalist who violates even the basic ethics reporters are expected to follow.
But the fault is not is alone. Editors bear great responsibility for this as well.
The Post needs to look carefully at the editors responsible for these stories. And it also needs to decide whether or not a reporter like Wagner should be allowed to continue working.
Arabs, kibbutzniks forge unlikely alliance against proposed haredi city east of Hadera
By MATTHEW WAGNER • Jerusalem Post
In a move that shows that sometimes neighbors are closer than co-religionists, a group of secular kibbutzim has joined forces with Arab Israelis to torpedo plans for a future haredi city of 150,000 residents east of Hadera.
Opposition to the planned haredi town demonstrates that new Jewish building can be controversial not only beyond the Green Line but also safely inside it.
Three Hashomer Hatza'ir kibbutzim - Ma'anit, Barkai, and Metzer - have formed a coalition with three neighboring Arab villages - Umm el-Kutuf, Meishar and Barta'a to block the building of the city, called Harish, which they say will disrupt the delicate relations between Arabs and Jews in the area and will also destroy protected green areas.
On Tuesday the Construction and Housing Ministry's National Council for Building and Planning will vote in Jerusalem on whether to approve an additional 16,000 housing units in addition to the 10,000 that have already been approved and earmarked for the haredim.
Demonstrators, both kibbutzniks and Arabs, will protest outside the ministry building during the vote.
"The haredim do not have a good track record of relations with the Arabs," said Arik Hatzor, a member of Kibbutz Ma'anit, who is spearheading the opposition.
"We are afraid that a construction monstrosity that will bring tens of thousands of haredim to this part of the country, where relations between Jews and Arabs are exceptionally good, will totally upset the delicate balance here.
"The haredim are fanatics in their way of life. Just imagine what they will do to the public transportation. We are not against haredim as individuals - everyone has a right to live the way they want to live. But we are against a huge haredi city in an area that is one of the state's few green bastions."
Former Shas MK Nissim Dahan, who is now head of the Harish local
council, said that the Kibbutzniks in the area were inciting the Arabs against the haredim.
"Extreme left-wing secular kibbutzniks are heating up the Arabs because they want to protect their real estate rights", said Dahan. "The kibbutzniks hope they can turn a profit by turning their agricultural land into commercial or residential property. And Harish is getting in their way."
Riad Kabha, head of the neighboring Basmat Regional Council, said that he was seriously concerned that if the expansion of Harish was approved it would ignite Arab violence.
"The Housing Ministry prevented Arabs from expanding to the west claiming that the area was reserved as green space, and now they are letting Jews build there," said Kabha. "That is discrimination and it will make a lot of people here angry."
He added that part of the land slated for Harish belonged to Arab farmers.
The rapidly growing haredi population is already reeling from the building freeze in Judea and Samaria, where Modi'in Ilit and Beitar Ilit, two of the largest haredi cities, are located.
They were further shocked by Defense Minister Ehud Barak's announcement Monday that only 100 of the 455 building units approved in Judea and Samaria within the framework of a US-Israel compromise were earmarked for haredim. No new housing whatsoever was approved in Beitar Ilit, at a time when demand for housing is skyrocketing.
While the US and Israel bicker over new building in Judea and Samaria that allows for "natural growth," the average woman in Beitar Ilit and Modi'in Ilit has over 7 children, compared to the national average of 2.8 in 2007.
According to Micha Rothchild, a member of the Haredi Building Council, a lobbying group for haredi housing interests, this year 6,500 new haredi couples will marry and need a house.
"Next year there will be 6,800 new haredi couples, and the year after, 7,350," said Rothchild. "And there already is a shortage. There are today 37,000 haredi couples who are living in storage rooms, in underground parking lots, in attics or are simply living with their parents. We are ready to go to any place in the state of Israel. Obviously, we prefer living inside the Green Line. But it turns out that even inside the Green Line it is not simple. It is sad that secular Jews are willing to cooperate with Arabs. It shows how much haredim are hated."
Ilan Sadeh, Head of the Menashe Regional Council, which includes Harish in its jurisdiction, said that the main reason for his opposition to the building of the new city was environmental.
But he admitted that he did not like the idea of 150,000 haredi neighbors. "We personally prefer non-haredi residents in this part of the country."