Israeli town halts tender after Arabs buy up land

Israeli town halts tender after Arabs buy up land

As activists slam decision as racist, mayor of Kfar Vradim in the north vows to seek legal ways to retain community's 'special character'

Kfar Vradim. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Kfar Vradim. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A town near Israel’s northern border has temporary halted tenders for new land being developed for residential use after 58 of the first 125 plots were purchased by Arab families.

Following an outcry on social media, Sivan Yechieli, mayor of Kfar Vradim, announced that no new tenders would be issued until he had discussed with government authorities a way to retain the town’s Jewish character, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday.

“Transforming established Jewish communities into communities with mixed populations… is not an issue specific to Kfar Vradim. It is also an issue in Afula, Nahariya, Karmiel and throughout the Galilee,” Yechieli said. He vowed that no more plots of land would be sold “until we find an appropriate solution that will ensure our ability to preserve communal life and the special character of Kfar Vradim as it is today.”

The upper Galilee town, which is home to some 5,800 Jews, was founded in 1984 to provide a community for non-religious Jews. In the surrounding area there are several Arab and Jewish communities.

Currently there are 1,700 homes in Kfar Vradim, and there are plans to build an additional 2,200 homes in the town, which is expected to increase the population to some 14,000 people.

Kfar Vridim resident Nati Shenfeld, March 18, 2018 (screen capture: Facebook)

Last week a resident of the town, Nati Schenfeld, called for action after learning that almost half the plots had been awarded to Arab families.

Denying he was motivated by racism, Schenfeld asked how the community would look in the future.

“What will be the nature of education in kindergartens and schools?” he asked in a Facebook post.

The decision to halt the tenders was condemned by Adalah, an advocacy center for Arab rights.

“The words and actions of Kfar Vradim’s local council leader are motivated by racism,” the organization said in a statement. “To prevent Arab citizens of Israel from purchasing homes due strictly to their national identity is an illegitimate act and stands in absolute contradiction to the principles of equality to which the local council is obligated.”

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