אתר הקואליציה למאבק בתוכנית השר אטיאס לבניית עיר של 150,000 תושבים, לחרדים בלבד, על היישוב חריש באזור ואדי ערה

English

Free Harish: Why the Atias Plan must be stopped

The Housing and Construction Minister has decided to establish a city for ultra-orthodox Jews only, in Harish. This will cause irrevocable destruction of thousands of acres of a unique forest reserve – in actual fact driving all of the families who are currently living in Harish out of their homes, and the expropriation of agricultural land and private land owned by kibbutzim and Arab towns in the area. And all the above is carried out ruthlessly and with lack of public transparency. We, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, kibbutz members and residents of the settlements in the area demand: A City Open to All!

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Minister Atias’s plan to establish a city that will become Israel’s fifth largest city, in the settlement Harish, will entail:

· Irremediable destruction of thousands of acres of a unique forest reserve.
· Literally driving all the families who are currently living in Harish out of their homes, in order to build a city intended solely for ultra-orthodox Jews.
· Expropriation of agricultural and private land owned by kibbutzim and Arab towns in the area.
· Brutal, lack of public transparency, bypassing Israel’s regular planning procedures in preparation and implementation of the plan.
· An anti-democratic course of action: The head of council was not appointed by democratic elections – the people of Harish are "represented” by Nissim Dahan of Shas, as head of an appointed committee, working with an Interior Minister from Shas and a Shas Housing Minister.
· Severe discrimination in the allocation of land and of state resources, for the benefit of only one sector – Ultra-Orthodox Jews.
· Outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money – removing the existing infrastructure at a cost of 350 million NIS rather than using it for future construction.

· Future damage to the health of the inhabitants of the new city – due to its proximity to a nearby quarry.

So, What is Really Going on here?

Harish is a small town located in the Pardes-Hana area, between the kibbutzim Maanit, Barkai, and Metzer, 5 minutes away from Route 6 and 45 minutes away from Tel-Aviv. The town is surrounded by a large forest reserve of 18,000 acres that has been defined by the Society for Protection of Nature as being of great importance in terms of natural value. This forest is the last of its kind – in which ancient oaks, many rare plants and animals, and one of the richest biodiversities in the world, exist. So as not to destroy this forest, Harish was originally designed as a small town of 4,200 housing units, mostly single-family homes, of only 600 acres. Infrastructures such as roads, water, sewage and electricity, have already been established in Harish, with an investment of 350 million NIS.

The Housing Ministry’s Plans for Harish

Although the infrastructure has already been built by the state, for years, officials from Shas in the Housing Ministry and Israel’s Land Administration, have thwarted attempts to inhabit Harish and the number of residents in Harish has stopped at 1,300. We have testimonies from building contractors and court rulings determining compensation to the contractors whose tenders were sabotaged by the Housing Ministry. Today, those same officials claim that no one has ever been interested in living in the city. Their claims are particularly disturbing because Harish is situated in the heart of the country, an area that has become very sought-after in recent years. The reason for this false claim is that for years these officials have been planning to build a huge city of 150,000 residents, designated for Ultra-Orthodox Jews only.

Large Scale Social and Environmental Damage

The establishment of a large scale urban center in such a unique region will dramatically damage the character of the area, will actually drive the residents of Harish out of their homes and will turn the kibbutzim and Arab villages in the area into an enclave surrounded by a city, while expropriating their land and their source of income, and will hinder possibilities for future development of these settlements. On the whole, the area in which Harish is situated is characterized by a delicate balance between the residents of suburban communities, agricultural communities and Arab communities. The Housing Ministry’s plans will undoubtedly harm this delicate fabric and will breach the reciprocal relationship between the different communities.

In addition, The Harish Plan, as currently proposed, is an outrageous waste of the taxpayers’ money, for it requires the extraction of the existing infrastructure rather than utilizing it by creating an appropriate plan. Furthermore, in the proposed plan there is inefficient utilization of the land as would be expected from a development and expansion plan for an existing town. The buildings will be up to four floors only, which is suitable for the Ultra-Orthodox sector which is the target audience intended to populate Harish.

The Proposed Plan is Being Formed without Informing the Public

For several years, there has been no democracy in Harish – the head of the Harish-Katzir Council, Nisim Dahan, was appointed by the Interior Ministry, headed by Shas, and was not elected by the residents. Dahan openly declares that the veteran residents of Harish are of no interest to him; he openly harasses them by neglecting the infrastructure and by collecting extra fees illegally. According to his statements, this was done so that the residents will evacuate their homes for the benefit of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews that will be arriving in the future. Residents that requested to receive details about the progress of the plan were given irrelevant answers.

Although the National Planning Committee has reduced the size of the planned city, the plan is still enthusiastically promoted by a Special Committee for Planning and Housing and by a special Borders’ Committee. The following facts indicate the lack of public transparency from the authorities: the way the committee was established and its authority was determined; the assemblage of a borders committee while at the same time creating the master plan that will enlarge the area allowed for development in a significant way – in addition to extending the tenure of the appointed head of council of Harish-Katzir.

Did anyone say a reform in planning and building?

Who Are We?

To preserve the nature and the unique fabric of life in our region, we have created The Harish Regional Campaign Coalition from all the sectors in the region – Jews, Arabs, kibbutz members and residents of the settlement Harish itself. Together with environmental, planning and human rights organizations.

We urge everyone to object to the destruction of one of the richest and diverse natural areas in Israel, and the last in the region. We call to oppose the system up-for-grabs bypassing the planning laws that may be a precedent to massive destruction of nature, the expulsion of secular residents from their homes, and ignoring the consequences of this move for the residents of the area and to all the residents of Israel and its further generations.

What Can You Do to Help?

Talk to friends, tell them about the campaign. Send people the link to our website. Join our Facebook Page and spread the word. And if you want to be involved, contact us here.

>>About the Harish Forest

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