The government approved the establishment of a new community in the Galilee on Sunday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailing the move as “a celebration for all of Israel” and a step in the direction of dealing with the country’s housing shortage.
The new community, named Ramat Arbel, or Arbel Heights, will sit at the foot of Mount Arbel, a popular hiking spot near the Sea of Galilee, on a site that housed a community some 2,000 years ago, during the Second Temple Period, Netanyahu said.
“This is a celebration for all of Israel and for the pioneer families at the site. This is very important news for the strengthening of Jewish settlement in the Galilee, something that is important to all of us,” Netanyahu said.
A group had attempted to set up a community at the site last year before receiving planning permission, and was removed by police.
The government had in 2006 rejected a proposal to set up a community at the site, citing the damage to the environment and the views at one of Israel’s premier tourist sites, the Walla news site reported.
Netanyahu did not address the environmental impact of the community but stressed the government was working to ease Israel’s chronic housing shortage that has seen prices rocket over the last 15 years.
“I remind you that this is the fourth community that this government is establishing, in addition to extensive construction that we are promoting all over our country,” Netanyahu said.
The Galilee Regional Council welcomed the decision and said that a communal settlement would be established at the site, but gave no details on the number of homes to be built.