Israel’s first new non-Bedouin Arab town set for approval

Israel’s first new non-Bedouin Arab town set for approval

Galilee community, intended for 40,000 people, aims to combine modern living with traditional Arab culture

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Western Galilee (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)
The Western Galilee (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

The first new non-Bedouin Arab town to be built in Israel since the establishment of the state is to be sent for approval by the National Planning and Building Council.

Aimed at middle-class families, the new town is scheduled for review by the council next week, Haaretz reported on Monday.

The community is to provide housing for some 40,000 Arab residents and will be constructed next to the existing town of Jadeidi-Makr in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

Architect Oren Mebel has spent four years working on the plan, which began with a government decision in 2008 and was backed by the Israel Lands Administration, the Ministry of Housing and Construction, and the Interior Ministry.

Following approval from the national council, the regional planning authority will review the plan and provide feedback.

The University of Haifa’s Rassem Khamaisi, who helped plan the new town, explained the need for a large-scale Arab housing project.

“Not a great distance from the planned location there is an Arab population living in a dense urban construction,” he said. “The rural Arab population is going through a process of urbanization, while on the other hand there are not enough opportunities being created.”

Khamaisi predicted that by 2020 the Arab population will have increased by 700,000 and claimed that existing Jewish population centers don’t offer a viable housing solution.

Slated for land covering some 2,630 dunams (650 acres), the municipal status of the new community is yet to be decided. But Jadeidi-Makr would like to see it included within its own municipal boundaries, the report said.

The town is planned to combine modern living with traditional Arab culture. Options under consideration include private gardens and communal orchards for residents of the buildings, and combined gardens forming a central community region similar to those in traditional Arab villages. However, many of the buildings will be six stories high, whereas in Arab towns two or three stories is the norm.

An industrial park and high-tech center are also planned on the outskirts of the community.

Planners met with representatives from the Arab community, including municipal leaders and writers, to gain a better understanding of how to customize the town for its target population.

However, there were those who cast doubts and objections on the new town.

Some argued that towns should be open to all populations and not just limited to either Jews or Arabs. Another worry was that the town will weaken other Arab communities by drawing off economically stronger residents. There were also concerns that some of the land planned for the town was appropriated from residents of Jadeidi-Makr.

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