Construction Controversy

Sixty years ago, the building of any city, town or settlement in Israel was a reason for rejoicing. Today it can cause major controversy. Ynet reports that the Israeli government plans to build a new city for the ultra-Orthodox in the Negev. The new city, which will be called Kasif, has already been opposed by more than one group.

The Israel Nature and National Parks Service (NNPS) and the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel believe the new city is a threat to the environment of Israel and the  plant and wildlife in the Negev.

The NNPS also argues that it would be preferable to encourage the ultra-Orthodox to settle in already existing southern cities. Arad, for instance, has only reached half of its potential population and could benefit from an influx of residents.

Dimona Mayor Meir Cohen supports the construction of the city. He is in favor of any type of Jewish settlement in the Negev. He refers to the “demographic situation” – in other words, the concern that someday in the not-too-distant future, the Arab population in the Negev could exceed the Jewish one.

This controversy raises the much-asked question: What is Zionism in the 21st century? For some, concern over the environment in Israel can be considered Zionism. For others, encouraging integration of different elements in Israeli society is a Zionist value. And others are still sticking to the old values: Jewish settlement of the land first and foremost. This difference of opinion is also evident in the ideological divide between settlers in Judea and Samaria and the more dovish elements of society. The settlers believe that continuing the original Zionist ideal of settling in every part of the country is top priority, while others argue that now that Israel is a developed stable country other goals take precedence.

Of course, disagreement on the definition of Zionism today is not the only argument between the left and the right in Israel. The question of how best to achieve security for the citizens of Israel is a major one too. However, the issue of what Zionism means to a country 60 years old – or 70 years old or 80 years old – has far-reaching consequences for the future of the State of Israel.

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3 Comments on “Construction Controversy”

  1. Judy Says:

    What you don’t mention is the possibility that the opposition to the proposal is fuelled by secular hatred of haredim. That might also be a reason why the haredim concerned want their own settlement and don’t want to add themselves to an existing Negev secular city where they are going to experience hostility and an irreligious environment.

    That’s not a new thing within zionism.

    I wonder if the hostility to the settlement would have been as marked if the settlers had been a hard -left group?

    • Hadassah Says:

      I agree that the tension between secular Jews and ultra-Orthodox Jews is also at work here. If encouraging the ultra-Orthodox to more fully integrate into society is more important than settling the Negev, this is yet another value which has superseded the value of Jewish settlement in Israel.

      • Rena Says:

        I doubt that the secular community actually wants the ultra-orthodox to integrate with the rest of society-they just want the ultra-orthodox to disappear. I would have thought that sticking the ultra-orthodox all the way down in the Negev would actually appeal to the seculars. I believe that they really do care about the environment. That, and they get to stick it to the ultra-orthodox. What could be better?

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