Modiin Illit, popularly known as Kiryat Sefer, is now a city, having been granted approval by the Interior Minister and IDF Central Commander. It thus becomes the fourth Jewish city in Judea and Samaria, following Ariel, Maaleh Adumim and Beitar Illit.
The new city is virtually all-hareidi, along the lines of Beitar Illit and Elad. Located some 25 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, it straddles the Green Line border between pre- and post-'67 Israel, though most of it is well within the Samaria (Shomron) area. For this reason, its change in status required the consent of IDF Central Commander Gen. Gadi Shamni.
Mayor Rabbi Yaakov Guterman said, "Our city is considered Israel's third-largest Torah center [after Jerusalem and Bnei Brak - ed.], and is a drawing card for Torah institutions. It has long functioned as a city, and now it has received an official stamp of approval... Its great merit lies in its Torah scholars and the Torah and Hassidut insitutions that grace its streets."
History and Demography
Kiryat Sefer existed as a flourishing Jewish village during the Second Temple period, 2,000 years ago. It was abandoned when the Romans destroyed the Temple and the Jewish commonwealth in 66-70 C.E, was later briefly resettled, and was totally destroyed during the Roman suppression of the Bar-Kokhba Rebellion in the 130's C.E.
The city today numbers over 36,000 people, more than Dimona, Or Yehuda and Maaleh Adumim, and approximately on par with Ramat HaSharon and Kiryat Bialik near Haifa. Its fertility rate is the highest in the country.
The decision to turn a Local Council into a city is based on various factors, including: governmental stability, law enforcement and supervision, collection of taxes and payments, fair distribution of resources, measures taken against illegal construction, and the like.
Judea and Samaria localities such as Givat Zev, Efrat, Kiryat Arba, Karnei Shomron, Beit El, Kedumim, Emanuel and others continue to have Local Council status. Smaller communities are bunched together geographically in Regional Councils.