Harish-Katzir Israel news photo: Harish-Katzir Local Counci

The Appeals Committee of the Council for Planning and Building has rejected most of the appeals filed against the construction of a new housing project in the city of Harish.

The rejections of the appeals clear the way for construction to begin in the city which is located in Wadi Ara.

The plan, which was approved by Interior Minister Eli Yishai in July, includes 8,800 new housing units, which are to be marketed to young couples in the hareidi-religious community. The plan also includes space for businesses, public buildings and schools.

Two lawyers known for their work on behalf of extreme left-wing groups filed a suit against the building plans, claiming that surrounding Arab communities need the land for their own housing.

The lawyers argued that designating Harish for hareidi Jews would be a violation of the right to equality set forth in Israel's Basic Laws.

Harish is a small Jewish town with a mixed secular and religious population. The government decided to solve two problems at once by turning the town into a hareidi city thus providing housing for the rapidly expanding hareidi community while helping Harish grow. The lawyers, however, claimed that “importing” hareidi Jews would throw off the existing balance of between various sectors of society in Wadi Ara. The region currently has an Arab majority.

Yigal Shahar, Chairman of the Special Committee for Planning and Building in Harish, welcomed the rejection of the appeals on Thursday.

“In the first stage 6,000 housing units will be built,” Shahar told Arutz Sheva. “I expect the final plan to be ready within a few weeks.”

Shahar noted that most of the claims of the appellants that Harish is meant only for hareidim were rejected by the Appeals Committee.

“In recent years all kinds of appeals were filed, asking why we are building a city for hareidim, or why we are using private lands, and many other such claims – all of which were rejected,” he said. “Housing Minister Ariel Atias has already announced that the city is open to everyone, secular and religious alike.”

He expressed hope that marketing for the new units will begin within a year.

“I believe that we will issue tenders in a few months and that the marketing will begin in the middle of next year,” Shahar said. “I know there are already various groups that are planning to purchase homes.”

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