Monday, September 07, 2009
Wadi Ara: Jews, Arabs oppose establishment of haredi city
Planning and Building Council set to approve expansion of Harish so it will house 150,000 people. 'Plan's implementation may lead to another intifada,' former local council head says
On Tuesday the National Council for Planning and Building is expected to approve the expansion of the haredi community of Harish to make into a city.
According to the plan, the new city will be home to 150,000 people, but heads of Jewish and Arab councils in the area have already launched a campaign in an effort to thwart the plan.
"The establishment of a haredi city of such proportions would ignite not only the Wadi Ara area, but the entire country," Menashe Regional Council head Ilan Sadeh said.
"To establish this city both Jewish and Arab lands will have to be expropriated," he said. "It cannot be that nearby Barta'a's request
to expand was denied on grounds that the lands near the council should remain green, and now the establishment of a Jewish city on those same lands is being approved."
'I hope someone wakes up'
The original plan called for the new city to house 30,000 people, but construction was stopped due to the second intifada, which erupted in 2000, and a wave of terror attacks. Today about 1,000 people reside there.
Three years ago the housing minister at the time proposed setting up an ultra-Orthodox city at the site. The plan was backed by Interior Minister Eli Yishai and current Housing Minister Ariel Atias, both members of the Shas party.
Riad Kabha, former head of the Barta'a Local Council said, "We are not opposed to Jews living in the wadi, we have good neighborly relations with them; but setting up a haredi city whose residents are unfamiliar with our mentality could lead to another intifada."
On Tuesday the area's residents are scheduled to hold a demonstration in Jerusalem during the hearing at the National Council for Planning and Building.
"It is our obligation to preserve our quality of life and that of the future generations," said Arik Hatzor, who is leading the campaign.
The city plan stretches from Route 65 in the north all the way to Kibbutz Metser's reservoir in the south, and from the West Bank barrier in the east to Route 6 in the west.
"There is the Negev and Galilee, so why build here?" Sadeh said. "There are no Tombs of the Righteous here, or anything other religious element that warrants the establishment of an ultra-Orthodox city. I hope someone wakes up by Tuesday before it'll be too late."
Police forces are expected to hold an exercise in the south on Monday, during which they will train to deal with riots that may erupt should plans to establish the haredi city be implemented.