Lawyers: Planned haredi-only city is unconstitutional
The planned city, located near Pardes Hanna, is set to eventually provide homes for an estimated tens of thousands of families.
By RON FRIEDMAN • Jerusalem Post
Human rights lawyers are attempting to challenge a government decision designating the planned city of Harish as a haredi-only town.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the directors-general committee established by the government to promote the city’s establishment, attorneys Michael Sfard and Ishai Shneydor, representing residents of the region, wrote that the plan to populate Harish with only haredi residents was unconstitutional.
In March 2010, the cabinet decided to promote the planning and construction of the new city “in an effort to find a long-term solution for the future growth of the city as a substantial solution to the housing crisis from which the religious community suffers.”
The planned city, located near Pardes Hanna, is set to eventually provide homes for an estimated tens of thousands of families. Residents of the region, however, claim that the new city will harm the population makeup of the surrounding area.
“The decision to designate an urban settlement for one population, while closing it off to others, is unconstitutional, violating the principle of equality,” wrote the lawyers.
“The planned city of Harish rests in the heart of Wadi Ara, a region characterized by its complex and delicate makeup of different populations: urban and rural, Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian,” the letter continued. “The decision to construct a haredi city in this place will likely unbalance the situation and is a severe intervention by the government in the social makeup that exists in the region, clearly benefiting a certain population.”
The lawyers added that the land in question was desperately needed by the local Arab population for its future expansion and that “importing” a large population from other parts of the country would negatively affect the existing population.
The lawyers requested that the issue be thoroughly reexamined, and threatened that if the government did decide to designate the city for haredim only, the residents would petition the High Court.
A source in the Construction and Housing Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that while the government planned for the city to help solve the haredi housing shortage, it would not refuse to let non-religious people buy houses and live there if they chose.
The source said that the land in question had been standing vacant with no buyers for 20 years, and that only the haredim, who could mobilize large numbers of people in unison, could concertedly populate the city.
According to the ministry spokesman, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias had instructed planners to ensure that the current population of Harish, 300 secular families, would have a separate entrance to the city, enabling them to come and go during Shabbat.
He added that while the plots would only be marketed in six months, there were already ads in the haredi press calling for people interested in moving to Harish to sign up to purchase co-ops.