Upgrade of small haredi community approved
Following protests from area's Jewish, Arab residents, National Council for Planning and Building okays expansion of Harish into city designated to house 50,000 people, instead of 150,000 as originally planned. Local council head: Officials used common sense, forested areas saved
After months of deliberations, the National Council for Planning and Building approved on Tuesday the expansion of the haredi community of Harish in Wadi Ara. The community will become a city, albeit a small-sized one.
According to the approved plan, the new city will be home to 50,000 people, instead of 150,000 as originally planned.
Menashe Regional Council officials welcomed the decision to build a small town, as it means less damage to forested areas.
Wadi Ara is home to mostly Arab towns and a few secular Jewish communities. According to the plan, which was backed by Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) and Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), one of the Jewish communities, Harish, will be expanded and become a city earmarked for the haredi population.
The plan drew hash criticism from local Arabs, who threatened to launch an "Intifada", as well as from the Menashe Regional Council, which slammed the environmental damage the city's construction would cause to its open spaces.
However, the National Council for Planning and Building's final decision allayed their concerns, as it stated that the expansion of the new town will not encroach upon private land belonging to local Arabs or Council property.
"We welcome the fact that the National Council's members used common sense and reached a decision that will preserve the green spaces and the fabric of the relationship between the area's residents," said Menashe Regional Council head Ilan Sadeh.
The decision calls to expand Harish by about 247 acres, instead of the 502 acres mentioned in the original plan.
"We feared a haredi city of 150,000 people," said Sadeh, "but we are not against a city of 50,000 people that does not damage green lands."
Former Shas MK Nissim Dahan, who is head of the Harish Local Council, told Ynet, "I am disappointed by the decision, but I accept it. In any case, a city will be established. I hope that eventually (the National Council for Planning and Building) will approve the District Committee's decision, which calls for building the city in phases until it houses 150,000 people."
The original plan called for Harish to house 30,000 people, but construction was stopped due to the second intifada, which erupted in 2000, and a wave of terror attacks. Today about 1,000 people reside there.