Another calamitous side-effect of the soaring housing prices in Israel has been added to the list: Possible assimilation. This, in light of reports that some Israelis have taken to moving into Druze and Christian-Arab villages, where the rent is lower.
Globes reports that hundreds of students and young couples have found a “creative” solution to the housing crunch in Israel. The report highlights three young Israeli Jews living in Usefiya, a Druze town on Mt. Carmel, and a Jewish woman who has moved to Abu Ghosh, just outside Jerusalem. It is estimated that “hundreds of others” have availed themselves of similar alternatives.
One of the interviewees is Moti Normand, who is working on a research paper in the Technion entitled, “Jewish Emigration to Arab Towns.” The number of such Jews in Moslem Arab towns is practically nil, but in Druze and Christian Arab locales, the situation is gradually changing.
Normand himself is paying 2,300 shekels in monthly rent – the price of a studio apartment on the edge of Ramat Gan – for a ground-floor house of 100 square meters (nearly 1,000 square feet); prices elsewhere in Usefiya are even lower.
Asked about the “difference in culture,” one Jewish tenant said, “They shoot at weddings, so what?...” He did not relate to the lack of synagogues, mikvehs, or other hallmarks of Jewish communal life. The children, still young for the most part, commute each day to nurseries in nearby Beit Oren or Haifa. Some six toddlers in the Beit Oren nursery are from Usefiya.
One rabbi who was asked his opinion for this article said the issue is more one of education, and not economic: "The fact that some Jews allow the economic difficulties to push them to Druze villages is an educational problem, and it is that which we must deal with."
Druze: Good, But up to a Point
One Druze resident of Usefiya, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Amel Assad, said he is happy about the trend – but with one caveat: The Jews must not buy land. “Usefiya is the only place in which Druze, Muslims and Jews live. Some Jews have lived here many years. They enjoy it and we enjoy them. The only thing that’s important to us is to preserve the Druze character of the village, and we therefore try that people from outside not buy land. But there are many students and young couples renting here, it enriches the village and we are in favor.”