On Thursday, a group of Knesset members from the opposition National Union (NU) party visited a Haifa neighborhood which used to have a Jewish majority and whose remaining Jewish residents complain of anti-Semitic attacks by their new Arab neighbors.
The legislators toured the Hadar neighborhood, where local Jews claim that hundreds of Arabs, many of whom are hostile to Israel and Jews, have moved in and are swiftly taking over. Most Jewish residents of Hadar have already left, selling their property to Arab purchasers at relatively good prices. Those who remain in the low-income neighborhood are often subject to taunts, threats and even physical abuse, the MKs were told.
As reported by Israel National News earlier this month, the local Hadar synagogue, Hadrat Kodesh, has fallen into disrepair due to the shift in neighborhood demographics. The building is currently a filthy shell of what it was, broken into and used for what a Haifa religious council member called "undesirable purposes."
The change in the population of the Hadar neighborhood follows a similar "Arabification" pattern that has taken place in other Israeli cities, including Lod, Ramle, Yafo (Jaffa) and Akko.
MK Uri Ariel, who was on the NU tour on Thursday, explained that there are two main groups taking the places of the older Hadar residents, who are leaving. One group is made up of former South Lebanese Army (SLA) soldiers and their families. They fled into Israel when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to abandon the South Lebanese Security Zone, which was patrolled by both the IDF and the SLA, in 2000. The second group is made up of Arabs from eastern Jerusalem who moved to Haifa and the north.
"There is, of course, a difference, and a significant difference [between the two groups]," MK Ariel said. At the same time, he noted that "those allies [the former SLA soldiers] feel somewhat closer to the Arabs of Haifa than to the Jews of Haifa, and that group is growing, to the point that Jews are leaving...."
Ariel said that his party "is trying to find a way to bring a significant number of Jews to the city. There has been an attempt to organize a Torah nucleus of young families and to bring in students who study at the Technion and other institutions. In addition, we are trying to get the Bnei Akiva youth group involved in the neighborhood. In these ways, we will encourage the Jewish population in the area."
The NU has taken upon itself the task of strengthening the Jewish presence in those "mixed" towns or neighborhoods that are seeing an influx of Arab residents, changing the demographic picture. However, NU efforts to increase the Jewish population of those towns and cities does not include economic incentives, Ariel explained. "Every resident has to understand that even if he can get a few more thousand shekels from Arabs [when selling his apartment], he must not create a situation in which his neighbors will have to flee from there," Ariel said.
One group is made up of former South Lebanese Army (SLA) soldiers and their families.
The party often works together with Torah nucleus groups, which maintain studies and homes in the places they are established. In Yafo, MK Ariel noted, a Torah group has already been established, and it is having an impact. "There are beautiful buds," Ariel said, "and the question will be one of consistency and enlarging things to a 'commercial' size."
The municipal officials in the cities where the demographic shift is underway do not involve themselves with the issue, MK Ariel claimed, because of local political calculations.
All told, however, MK Ariel is optimistic. "There is more light than shadows." he says. "I am particularly optimistic due to the youth, who are doing everything with charm, quietly, modestly and with no fanfare. I think the youth surpass us."