Ben Hamo and Yair Lapid in Arad
Ben Hamo and Yair Lapid in AradSpokesperson

The mayor of the southern Israeli city of Arad warned against an impending wave of immigration by members of the Gur Hasidic movement into Arad if the Likud party manages to win back city hall in this year’s municipal election.

Nissan Ben Hamo, a member of the Yesh Atid party, intervened two years ago in the long-standing dispute between veteran residents and members of Arad’s growing Gur community over control of a local synagogue.

Since 2010, members of the national-religious and Chabad communities in Arad have accused the Gur community of usurping control over a disputed synagogue.

The row fueled fears that demographic changes in the city could leave secular and national-religious residents a minority in the coming years.

In a recent interview with Radio Darom, Ben Hamo warned that if the Likud were to form an alliance with the Gur community and run a candidate against him in this year’s election, it would effectively hand control of Arad to the Gur movement and lead to sweeping demographic changes.

A Likud win would “put the Gur Hassidim back in control. It would again enable them to run the city’s municipal agenda, and set the city back years.”

“That means that Arad will lay out a red carpet [encouraging Gur Hassidim to move there], like there was before I became mayor, and Arad will likely become 40% haredi. And there is no justification for such a city to exist in the Negev. I’m telling you, economically, it has no right to exist.”