Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Religious vs. Secular: Segregated Housing Endorsed by Minister

Housing and Construction Minister,
Ariel Atias
The Haredim are looking for new ways of isolating themselves and dividing the country.  This time, they it's segregated housing that they want.

According to a recent article by Ynet news, Housing and Construction Minister, Ariel Atias, is fervently endorsing haredi-designated cities.  

The segregated housing issue was discussed by Israeli officials and haradi and secular community representatives at a conference organized by the Gesher Foundation, an organization ironically founded to promote dialogue between the religious and the secular. 

In Hebrew, Gesher (גשר) means bridge, although from reports on their most recent housing conference, it sounds like they are having a tough time trying to meet their goals of " strengthening the fabric of Israeli society through the appreciation of our shared Jewish heritage and common destiny."

The conference, held on Tuesday, October 26th, was held in Jerusalem and titled "Segregated Country".  

Most of the religious in attendance, including Minister Atias himself, made it very clear that they are happy to remain isolated and would prefer living in an area where they would not have to have any interaction with secular Jews.

"I am in favor of separate housing in separate neighborhoods for haredim," said Atias. "I would not let my children meet with secular youth."  

Atias continued by implying that even without a city-backed plan, the haredim would eventually grow to become the majority in many communities and would seize control organically. "Haredim will take over secular neighborhoods if ultra-Orthodox cities or neighborhoods are not planned," Atias said. 

I was particularly confused by remarks made the director of the Gesher foundation regarding the conference. According to Ynet's report, Gal-Dor said he welcomes the Minister Atias' 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."

When did segregation become a "bridge that breaks divides"?  I mean, did I miss something here?

Also in attendance was former Housing Minister Yosef Paritzky and Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus, who exchanged some harsh words regarding housing segregation: 

"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, responded to Paritzky's remark by saying: "Don't try and educate us. We're 700,000 people who want to live separately according to our own lifestyle."

Apparently Atias already has a haradi city plan in the works.  He's been promoting planning for an ultra-orthodox city in the community of Harish in Wadi Ara since the spring despite opposition from local Jews and Arabs. He has also been criticized in the past for advancing the establishment of a haradi city in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, which lead to massive legal battles between himself and the city council.

Atias has also been criticized for arguing that Jewish and Arab populations, like secular and religious ones, should also be kept separate from one another. 

I always thought that the best way to promote dialogue and build bridges was through interaction and coexistence, but it seems that the religious communities see things quite differently.


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