Plans for new haredi city in Negev angers environmentalists

Plans for new haredi cit

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is spearheading a campaign to prevent the planned construction of Kasif, a new city for the haredi community, in the Negev, near Arad. In April, the government approved a decision calling to build a new city that would help draw people to the Negev and find a solution for the housing challenges facing the haredi community. A team of experts from the Housing and Construction Ministry recommended building a new, separate city that could house 50,000 residents and would be planned with institutions and services needed by haredim. According to the plans, Kasif will rest on 4,750 dunams in Tel Arad, 10 kilometers west of Arad. The city is designed to be self-sufficient, for the most part, when it comes to public and communal services. The ministry team assessed that only 10 percent of the population would seek to take part in regional commercial activities. Several public bodies have opposed the construction of the new city. Leading the way is the SPNI, which claims that a new city would cause ecological harm to the area and that both of the government's objectives could be met by encouraging the haredi population to settle in existing cities and towns. "The SPNI is a partner in the desire to find a solution for the haredi population, but think this should be achieved first and foremost by enlarging existing cities and not founding new ones," read a statement by the environmental organization. "The existing cities, east of Beersheba, are still a long way from reaching their capacity, and some are even a long way from the minimal size required for independent and balanced community life," it continued. "The development of new cities - which includes construction of thousands of housing units along with the infrastructure that is required, like roads, sewage and electricity - is contrary to the state's planning policy and will cause harm to the environment." In a position paper on the matter, the SPNI said that Kasif was not necessary from a planning perspective because the potential residents could find housing solutions in the metropolitan Beersheba area and in the towns of Karmit and Khiran, which have been authorized but haven't yet been built. The plan was supposed to be discussed by the National Planning Commission on Tuesday, but the debate was canceled at the request of Arad Mayor Gideon Bar-Lev.