Arabs, kibbutzniks forge unlikely alliance against proposed haredi city east of Hadera

Arabs, kibbutz members join hands against proposed haredi city near Hadera.

haredi man walking 88 (photo credit: )
haredi man walking 88
(photo credit: )
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."