No one knows how many tens of thousands will ultimately live in the hareidi city-to-be of Harish, but it already has locals protesting against it.
The government decided on Sunday to establish a Directors Committee to advance the planning of the city, which is to be built in the area of Nahal I’ron (Wadi Ara), between Hadera and the Israeli Arab-populated city of Umm El-Fahm, within pre- 1967 Israel.
Close to 200 protestors from what is at present the small community of Harish and nearby secular communities protested Sunday morning against the plans. They fear that Housing Minister Ariel Attias of the Sephardic-hareidi Shas party plans to try to build housing for 100,000 people in Harish – as opposed to the 60,000 approved by the National Planning Commission.
The Commission approved the expropriation of 1,000 dunams in the area six months ago, to be used for the new city. The protestors fear that 25,000 to 30,000 units will be built in the coming year – enough for over 100,000 people.
Among the protestors are local secular and Israeli Arab residents. The Arabs fear that the construction of the new city will turn them into an isolated enclave within Harish. “This is racist discrimination,” they say, promising to begin a full-fledged struggle.
Harish has not been successful in building itself as a location for Jewish settlement over the years. It began nearly 30 years ago as a Nachal outpost, then became a Kibbutz, and was later abandoned. It was re-defined as a Jewish city in the mid-1990s and infrastructure for large-scale construction was laid down. However, the Israeli Arab riots nearby in the year 2000 caused developers to lose interest in the location, while a number of Arabs, including organized crime families, moved into existing apartments. In order to prevent an Arab takeover of Harish, a religious-Zionist Torah core group made its home in Harish soon after, living under difficult conditions. The group currently numbers approximately 80 families.
Attias told Army Radio on Sunday that he personally feels that hareidi and secular Jews should not live in the same towns, “as this leads to friction, protests, and the like. Hareidim have bigger families, they need more schools, synagogues, mikvaot and kindergartens… But anyone who wants to live in Harish will be able to do so.”
Marketing of the new units is expected to begin soon, and thousands are likely to be sold within a few months.