Upper Nazareth (Natzrat Illit) Mayor Alex Gadalkin met this week with MKs and ministers, begging them for help – before his city deteriorates completely. In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Gadalkin said that the city needed major intervention to ensure it remains viable.
Upper Nazareth is a development town rife with social problems, Gadalkin said. “After our teenagers finish the army, they leave the city and don't come back here to live. We have one of the oldest populations per capita in the country. Half of the city's residents are new immigrants, who need a great deal of assistance. And we have a very high rate of single mothers,” he added.
Politicians do not exactly ignore Upper Nazareth, Gadalkin – they visit on a regular basis, especially during the period of the Galilee Conference, which is held in the city. But coming to make speeches will not help residents. “We need action, not speeches,” Gadalkin said.
As young Jews leave the city, Arab families squeezed out of the housing market in Nazareth take their place, said Gadalkin. “It's not easy to be a Jew here. We are the victims of a great deal of crime stemming from the non-Jewish sector. When they have protests in Kafr Kana, we are stuck in town, because our access road goes through that village. If the government does not do something, we will lose this town.”
Nazareth has long been an Arab-populated city, while Upper Nazareth was built just above it in 1956 as a Jewish city. Its population is now more than 42,000, but its Arab population has increased from 9% ten years ago to around 13% now. Of the remaining 87%, many are non-Jewish new immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Last year, former mayor Shimon Gapso took a strong stance against the opening of an Arab Muslim school in Upper Nazareth.Gapso said in an interview that “the city’s residents and I, as their leader, support the principle that Upper Nazareth must stick to this mission [of making the Galilee Jewish],” adding that he as mayor, along with the city's Jewish population will do everything in their power to prevent measures like the opening of a Muslim school, which would change the city's Jewish character and status.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Gadalkin said that he hoped that “the government has not given up on the Galilee. If that is the case, the government needs to invest in our city, to bring projects, improve infrastructure, improve education and culture so that we have something to offer residents.”