On the surface, the northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill is much like any other suburban area in the country: identical stone apartment blocks towering skywards, courtyards shaded by trees and coffee shops with al-fresco tables. But at the gates to the university's Student Village, the neat rows of apartments become obscured by the Egged buses and Arab coaches competing for space on the traffic circle. A few minutes down the slope of Rehov Lehi, appetite takes precedence over ethnicity for the customers in line at the road's two felafel outlets. At the Haj Liftawi Abu-Leil Felafel Bar, a dozen hungry customers, including Arab teenagers and plainclothes Israeli police, vie for the vendor's attention. Here, the ethnic mix of the residents is much more diverse than in most of the other Jewish areas in the city, partly due to the proximity of the Hebrew University's campus on nearby Mount Scopus and the Hadassah University-Hospital, which draw staff and students, including many Arabs, from all over Israel and the world. But the blend of people is also a reflection of one of the most significant demographic changes the city has faced in recent years. Overcrowding in east Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods has been exacerbated by the migration of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the outskirts of the city, prompting many Arabs to seek accommodation in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, including French Hill. The reactions of the Jewish residents to this phenomenon are mixed: some are upbeat, some indifferent and still others are apprehensive about having Arab neighbors. The trigger for these movements has been the construction of the West Bank security barrier in and around Jerusalem. "One effect of the barrier is the movement of tens of thousands of Palestinians from outside Jerusalem to inside municipal Jerusalem. We know about such cases, especially in Neveh Ya'acov, Pisgat Ze'ev, Armon Hanatziv and East Talpiot," says Haim Ehrlich, coordinator of policy and advocacy at Ir Amim, an NGO that promotes equality among Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem. "Why? It's very simple," says Ehrlich. "Firstly, the Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem are very overcrowded and are therefore becoming very expensive. Secondly, the quality of life is much better in Jewish neighborhoods. We're speaking about basic facilities like garbage [collection] and public services. For Palestinians who are educated and middle class, it's better for them to pay an extra $50 or $100 a month for a much better standard of living." Ziad Al-Hamouri, head of the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights, concurs: "All the pressure put on the shoulders of the Palestinians because of the wall is frightening people that their [Israeli] identity cards will be taken away [if they live outside the barrier]. This is what is behind the movements." BACK ON the streets of French Hill, life goes on as usual for the 30 or so customers queuing patiently at the local Bank Hapoalim branch, who are split evenly among Jews and Arabs. Despite the relative segregation between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the lack of social contact among their residents, it is not uncommon to see Jews and Arabs shopping at the same malls in Talpiot or waiting in line at Bank Hapoalim's branch on Derech Hebron. What is unusual, however, is that increasing numbers of Arabs are living in neighborhoods that are otherwise predominantly Jewish. Could this new phenomenon be a vehicle for coexistence in the contested city? Moshe Levi, a recent immigrant from California says it makes no difference to him if he has Arab neighbors. "I think it's nice. In the United States I lived in areas which were very diverse and I enjoyed it. One thing about Israel that is very troublesome for me is the segregation between Jews and Arabs. But I think it runs both ways, maybe Arabs prefer to live among each other too," says Levi from his apartment just off French Hill's Rehov Bar-Kochba. At French Hill Felafel, the restaurant's bilingual Arab owner, who lives in the neighborhood, has been selling felafel for 30 years and is comfortable with the ethnic character of the area. "There are lots of other places in Israel where Jews and Arabs live together. Look at the North, there's Haifa, Acre and Nazareth, and Beersheba too," he says. "In my street there are two other [Arab] families, and others are scattered around the area," says an Arab Pisgat Ze'ev resident. The Arab residents try to blend in and dress similarly to the Jewish residents, he adds. He is keen to stress that during his 10 years in Pisgat Ze'ev he has never encountered any violence. "An Arab who goes to live in a Jewish neighborhood believes in coexistence. It is something that should be welcomed by Jews. I have never run into any problems and I have excellent relations with my neighbors." Still, he says, "I have heard from a friend who tried to rent a house in French Hill and he was told they don't rent to Arabs." He has also heard there are Jewish activists who are trying to stem the phenomenon. A STUDY published earlier this month by the University of Haifa's Jewish-Arab Center found that more than 50 percent of Jews surveyed expressed strong or moderate support for Arabs living in Jewish neighborhoods. Of the Arabs surveyed, 75% supported mixed neighborhoods. "When I lived in the city center, the interaction was very different compared to French Hill," says Levi. "Since I've lived here [French Hill], I've got more of a sense that this was a place primarily populated by Arabs, but in places like Rehov Ben-Yehuda you get the feeling that there are no Arabs here and it has always been Jewish." French Hill, like the other Jewish neighborhoods experiencing Arab immigration, was built on land captured by Israel in 1967 and formally annexed in 1980. Surrounding communities are just as likely to be Arab, for example Isawiya or Shuafat, as they are Jewish, like Ramot Eshkol or French Hill. Walking along Rehov Hahagana, the main road leading into French Hill after turning right from Route 60, one is as likely to see a Muslim headscarf as a kippa among the crowd of people sitting in the February sunshine sipping coffee at Malka Café or munching burekas from the Na'ama Bakery. In contrast, outlying districts to the north of the city limits, such as Pisgat Ze'ev and its less affluent neighbor, Neveh Ya'acov, have a distinctly more homogeneous, suburban feel. Ido Malka, the manager of his eponymous Café Malka, a popular French Hill meeting place, estimates that Arabs make up less than 5% of the residents of French Hill. "Jews and Arabs sit together, everyone's friendly. Lots of people come here in the morning and on Fridays, both from French Hill and outside the area. It's a mixed place, but most of the Jews and Arabs who come here are secular. Religious people on both sides aren't friends with each other so much, they are more cautious." He adds that the multi-ethnic character of this part of French Hill owes much to the nearby campus of the Hebrew University, as well as the Student Village, housing some 1,500 students, located a couple of hundred meters from his café. Eyal, who also works at Café Malka, agrees that students contribute to a more ethnically diverse mix in French Hill. "It's a nice neighborhood. Things are okay here, there is no racism," says the 19-year-old who lives in Isawiya, an Arab village a 10-minute walk away. THE ARAB migration phenomenon is a recent and often invisible one and therefore accurate data are hard to come by. "No one know the numbers of people, I don't even think that the Interior Ministry knows," says Hamouri. "It is a sensitive issue and the Jewish people [renting or selling properties] are keeping a low profile," says Ehrlich, adding that many Arabs moving to Jewish areas are not changing their addresses on their ID cards, which makes monitoring difficult. "People know about it but don't necessarily want to talk about it," he continues. "It's creating a new situation where Arabs and Jews are living together in a new reality. Living together side-by-side [in separate communities] is okay but I don't think Israelis are ready for this [mixed communities] yet." Abed Dari, a schoolteacher from Shuafat, believes that the number of Arabs moving into Pisgat Ze'ev and Neveh Ya'acov is not significant. "Why would I leave my home and rent a new house? It's just people from the other side of the wall, like A-Ram and Ramallah [who are moving]," he says. Last summer, right-wing activist Aryeh King conducted an informal survey that determined that approximately 60 Arab families live in Neveh Ya'acov, 70 to 80 in Pisgat Ze'ev, 50 in French Hill and 200 in the city center. "This is the minimum number because we don't know everything. Our survey only covered 100 streets in all of Jerusalem," says King. The migration is a disaster, says King, who campaigns for an increased Jewish presence in Jerusalem. The security barrier should be taken down in order to reverse the trend, he adds. According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry's Web site, the route of the barrier is purely a "defensive measure," not political, and "will not establish a border of any kind, annex any Palestinian lands to Israel, change the legal status of any Palestinians [or] prevent Palestinians from going about their lives." The municipal spokesman did not address some residents' concerns that the barrier's route will eventually determine the city's borders, but issued a response regarding the purpose of the barrier. "The security barrier in the Jerusalem envelope is vital to the security and welfare of the capital's residents from the east and west of the city. Its route has been determined by the security establishment." Nevertheless, its circuitous path has created a conundrum for Palestinians holding blue Israeli identity cards trapped in limbo between the barrier and Jerusalem, particularly those living between Ramallah and the north of the city, as well those living to the south and east, for example the Bethlehem region and Abu Dis. "There are over 100,000 Palestinians with blue ID cards living outside the borders of Jerusalem, for example, E-Ram, Dahiyat al-Barid and Kafr Akab," says Hamouri. "The Israeli policy is that Palestinians living outside the borders of Israel, that is, the border of municipal Jerusalem, will lose their residency, ID cards and their social and economic rights. Therefore they are trying to find places to live and defend their right to exist in Jerusalem." According to real estate broker RE/MAX Vision, house prices are rising steadily in French Hill and Neveh Ya'acov, but not because of Arab immigration. Real estate agent Alyssa Friedland says that she is selling three-room apartments in French Hill for between $180,000 and $200,000 that would have retailed for $120,000 to $140,000 six months ago. She attributes this to two factors: The growing number of religious Jews moving to these areas, as well as the light rail, which is scheduled to run near French Hill when it opens in 2010. "Pisgat Ze'ev is much bigger so it is easier for religious people to feel more of a community in French Hill and Neveh Ya'acov," she adds. "There are some Arab renters in French Hill, as well as people from the European Union, but not so many buyers. It has a very cosmopolitan feel as far as its population goes because of the university and the hospital," says Friedland. "But Arabs can't afford [to buy in] French Hill. Maybe Ma'aleh Adumim or Pisgat Ze'ev and Neveh Ya'acov instead." "There are no places left in east Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods. They are difficult to find and becoming more expensive. Homes in Pisgat Ze'ev and Neveh Ya'acov are often less expensive than the Palestinian neighborhoods," adds Hamouri. A small, yet vocal, number of right-wing activists and local residents, including King, have organized campaigns to prevent Arabs from living in Jewish neighborhoods. "There are some who say that this is pure racism, but as a Jew I am happy to be racist… I too want to preserve my identity," King told the ynetnews.com Web site. LAST WEEK the head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria and chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Dov Lior, issued a halachic ruling forbidding Jews to employ Arabs or rent them homes. The statement, which followed the recent terror attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in central Jerusalem, came less than a year after rabbis in Bnei Brak published a similar announcement forbidding the rental of apartments there to Arabs or other non-Jews. Although the number of Arabs looking to live in Kiryat Arba or Bnei Brak may be slim to none, demand is certainly rising in Jerusalem. Still, the phenomenon appears localized and far from the "wholesale takeover" of Jewish Jerusalem that is sometimes portrayed. Tammy Iluz, who lives in Pisgat Ze'ev, says that she is not aware of any Arabs living in her 50,000-strong neighborhood. Despite the proximity of Arab communities to Pisgat Ze'ev, the prospect of living side-by-side is a source of fear for some. "We can't live with Arabs because we are afraid of them," says Iluz. "I can't trust them enough to live alongside them. They want to kill us so why should we let them move into our neighborhoods? How can we have faith in them?" Iluz's hostility softens, however, when she thinks of Arabs she has met at the French Hill Community Center, where she works. "They are okay," she concedes. "There is a big difference between the mind-set of Christian and Muslim Arabs. The Christians have a mentality more similar to ours. I know they are not all the same. I used to work with Arabs in my last job too. I suppose I shouldn't generalize about them, actually." Others are more optimistic about the latest trends. "It's better if people live together," says Ariella Linovski, who is pursuing a master's degree at the Hebrew University. Still, she admits that there are tensions in the area of French Hill where she lives. "At the university, most of the Arab students are from more middle-class, educated families who see getting along with Jews as an economic necessity," explains Linovski. "People here live together but they don't necessarily mix or integrate with each other, but it's just preconceptions. If people talk to each other, it helps to break down barriers."

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