Jaffa religious housing project wins case

Jewish-oriented construction company says it doesn't aim to Judaize Arab areas, but rather to bring educators into poor, 50% Jewish neighborhoods.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
March 24, 2010 03:30
2 minute read.
Jaffa - view

Jaffa - view. (photo credit: LYDIA AISENBERG)

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to delay construction on a residential project in Jaffa believed by some residents to be part of a private effort to “Judaize” the area.

ACRI had asked the court to issue a temporary injunction to prevent the Be’emuna company from beginning construction of a 20-unit housing development on Jaffa’s Etrog Road, but Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut rejected the petition, allowing the construction to go forward.

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The petition, which was also rejected by the Tel Aviv District Court in early February, was part of a wider struggle to cancel the project. The development has raised the ire of some residents because it affects the sometimes tense relationship between Arabs and Jews in the neighborhood.

Be’emuna specializes in development for religiously observant Jews, who prefer some added features in their buildings, such as elevators that operate automatically on Shabbat and open porches that can accommodate a succa.

According to ACRI and many Arab residents, however, Be’emuna’s marketing methods and goals are racist, and mark an effort to “Judaize” the neighborhood.

“The residents don’t have a problem with Jews or religious people [moving in],” according to Gilad Peled, director of the Jaffa Development Authority, the local branch of the Tel Aviv Municipality. “They are concerned with what they understand [to be] the goals of Be’emuna, which are seen to be anti-Arab. I’m not saying this is what Be’emuna believes, but what the local community feels.”

The municipality is not involved in the dispute, but Peled’s role as municipal manager for the area means he is following it closely.

Be’emuna “will need to explain to the community that they are not working against them,” he said, pointing to the example of last year’s rioting in similarly mixed Acre. “If they continue to be seen in this way, it can become a problem.”

Be’emuna denies it is trying to “Judaize” Jaffa, an allegation that company CEO Israel Zeira calls “ridiculous incitement by radical Muslim elements who make their money from strife and conflict.

“This is a ridiculous claim, because Ajami [another Jaffa neighborhood] is full of Jews,” he added. “Fifty percent of the project’s neighbors are Jews. And it’s not even in Ajami, but next to it, in Givat Aliya.”


Instead of “Judaizing,” Zeira said, the company’s goal “is to add more Judaism.”

That may sound the same, he said, “but it’s completely different. We believe in strengthening the Judaism among Jews already living in a neighborhood.

“That’s an accusation we’re proud to have leveled at us. That’s why in Jaffa, like in our development projects in Yokne’am and Pardes Hanna and Jerusalem, we bring families and educators from the religious-Zionist sector into poor neighborhoods so they can contribute to improving the local conditions, creating a situation where there are fewer kids on drugs, less violence, fewer social problems.”

Construction is going forward on the project, the company said, while a second development project in the area is already under way.


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