Hareidi men (illustrative)
Hareidi men (illustrative)Israel news photo: Flash 90

An angry debate broke out in Knesset on Tuesday between hareidi-religious Knesset members and a mayor who openly admitted that he does not want a large number of hareidi Jews moving to his city.

The Mayor of Lod, Yair Revivo, admitted during a meeting of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee that he had deliberately refrained from signing documents allowing the planned neighborhood of Ahisamach to move forward for the sole reason that most of those who plan to live there are hareidi.

Many people have bought homes “on paper” from companies that were given tenders to build homes in the planned neighborhood. Revivo expressed concern that many of the buyers are young hareidi-religious couples with few financial resources, who will drag down the socio-economic level of Lod – a city which has been struggling to improve its image and its financial standing.

Former Housing Minister Ariel Attias, a member of the hareidi-religious Shas party, told Ravivo that he has no right to withhold his signature. In response, Revivo said, “I won’t sign on a potential deficit,” referring to the potential blow to the city budget if the new neighborhood is populated by poor families.

His statements outraged hareidi-religious MKs. “Who will compensate the young [buyers], will you? The cat is out of the bag, this is racism against hareidi Jews!” Attias accused.

MK Moshe Gafni of the hareidi-religious Yahadut Hatorah (UTJ) party said, “A mayor with a yalmulkah on his head is saying ‘no’ to religious Jews. Racism!”

His fellow Yahadut Hatorah MK Yisrael Eichler told Revivo, “You’re worse than an Arab mayor. You’re a foreign occupier in Lod.”

25,000 without infrastructure

Committee head MK Miri Regev (Likud) managed to get the meeting back on track despite the outburst. MKs, city officials and other representatives went on to talk about their perception of Lod’s socio-economic issues, and about a government proposal to include the city on the list of “national priority” communities eligible for various discounts and benefits.

Dan Lahav from the Prime Minister’s Office said promoting financial independence for Lod is an important project. The PMO’s office has been working with the city for over three years and will continue to do so, he said.

MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor), a resident of Lod, said Lod is “a great city with wonderful people.” However, he warned, many young people in the city are weighing their future in the city, and may base their decision on what city officials do in the near future.

MK Regev concluded the meeting by planning a second meeting to discuss the issue of infrastructure in the city. Roughly 25,000 residents of Lod are still not connected to vital infrastructure, she said.

Regev suggested to Revivo and Gafni that they meet to discuss a solution to the issues relating to hareidi buyers in the Ahisamach project.