"Haredim will take over secular neighborhoods if ultra-Orthodox cities or neighborhoods are not planned," Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias said Tuesday.
Speaking at a conference organized by the Gesher Foundation, which promotes dialogue between seculars and the religious public, the minister added, "I'm in favor of separate housing in separate neighborhoods for haredim. I would not let my children meet with secular youth."
The conference was held in Jerusalem under the banner "Segregated Country."
Atias is promoting a plan to build a haredi city in Wadi Ara's Harish community, which has prompted opposition from local Jewish and Arab residents. He is working to expand the community by 5,000 dunam (roughly 1,235 acres) to include 15,000 housing units and 90,000 haredi residents.
"The government has not planned a haredi-designated city in the past 10 years despite the fact that 6,500 haredi couples marry every year," Atias said.
Ilan Gal-Dor, director of the Gesher foundation said he welcomes the minister's willingness to "take responsibility for building apartments for haredim" and added, "We must find bridges to break the divides and streotypes that exist among the populations."
Atias has been blamed in the past for promoting haredi construction in Beit Shemesh, which culminated in a legal war waged against him by city councilmen. A petition on the matter was eventually rejected.
The conference was also attended by ex-minister Yosef Paritzky and Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus. "I don't care about haredim. We're all minorities and the country has to instate equality both in duties and privileges," Paritzky said. Pindrus, a haredi himself, replied: "Don't try and educate us. We're 700,000 people who want to live separately according to our own lifestyle."
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