'Obama, leave us out of the freeze'

Obama, leave us out of

The mayor of the haredi town Beitar Illit appealed Sunday to the Obama administration to leave his town out of the building freeze since it was not an ideologically motivated settlement.
"The US is the real boss here, not the Israeli government, so we need to convince America that we're not an ideological settlement," said Mayor Meir Rubinstein, ahead of an emergency meeting held Sunday morning in Beitar Illit in response to the government-declared building freeze in Judea and Samaria.
"We should be left out of this construction freeze," Rubinstein said, adding that former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin encouraged the establishment of Beitar Illit, as did subsequent Israeli governments on the Right and Left.
"They pushed us to come here. They gave us no other choice. We didn't necessarily want to settle in a place beyond the Green Line. But we had no other options inside the Green Line.
"Even in Beit Shemesh secular Jews are trying to stop us from living there," added Rubinstein, referring to a recent controversy surrounding building tenders reserved for haredi-only residents.
"America does not want us either," he said. "They won't give us a green card. We're in a worse situation than Sudanese refugees. They don't want us in Israel, they don't want us in America, where are we supposed to go?"
Beitar is populated primarily by haredi families who came out of a desire to escape the cramped quarters and high prices in the traditional haredi centers of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.
Rubinstein said that his family and others who made up the core group of Beitar Illit residents came to the Holy Land long before there was a state, and lived for generations in Jerusalem.
"We're true Zionists. We came because of our religious faith; we're not ideologically motivated," he said.
Beitar Illit and Modi'in Illit, both located just beyond the Green Line, are the nation's two largest haredi-only towns. Both towns also have the highest fertility rates in Israel and some of the highest in the world.
The average mother in Beitar and Modi'in Illit has eight children, according to "Patterns of Fertility in 2006," a report released last week by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
"What are we supposed to tell a family that bought a small two-room apartment 10 years ago as a newlywed couple and now has eight children?" asked Rubinstein. "They can't even expand their existing apartment, let alone build another apartment."
Rubinstein said dozens of families will be financially ruined by the building freeze.
"People have already paid building contractors and were planning to enter their new homes in the coming months. They signed rental agreements or even sold their homes, expecting to move. Where will all these families live now?"