While Hareidim aren't always welcome in some cities in Israel, one exception is Upper Nazareth – where the mayor believes that Hareidi Jews will save his city from an onslaught of Arabs.
“Only the Hareidi community will ensure that Upper Nazareth remains Jewish,” Mayor Shimon Gapso told Ma'ariv in an interview Sunday. Gapso said that he was aware that Hareidim were persona non grata in many places, but that was not the case in his town – and called on Hareidim to take advantage of the reasonable housing prices.
Upper Nazareth is the neighbor town of Nazareth, the Christian-Muslim Arab capital of the lower Galilee. Nazareth itself has no Jewish residents and is surrounded by dozens of small towns and villages with non-Jewish populations. Out of the 210,000 people who live in the area of Nazareth and Upper Nazareth, 125,000 are Arabs, and the rest are Jewish.
One of the biggest problems for the Jewish town of Upper Nazareth is an ongoing housing shortage in the Arab towns, which has brought numerous Arab families to Upper Nazareth. That has made the area less attractive to Jewish buyers, and owners of homes there have cut prices; many of those selling homes sell them to Nazareth Arabs, who are often the only ones making an offer.
In recent months, the Israel Lands Administration has allocated land for the construction of 2,300 new housing units. Gapso would like to see Hareidi Jews in those homes. Without Hareidim who already live in the town, he said, “we would have completely lost parts of the town, which would have been swallowed up by the villages around us.”
Gapso siad that the town had plenty of services for religious and Hareidi families, including synagogues, schools, and large homes, perfect for the larger religious families. In addition, he is willing to close neighborhoods that have an exclusively religious population for Shabbat, with cars prevented from driving through, as is customary in many religious neighborhoods in the country.