Mayor of Israeli Town Threatened by Irate Residents Over Arab Housing Project

Protesters from Afula call their mayor a terrorist because Arabs won a local housing tender.

Jewish residents in Afula protest granting of local housing tender to Israeli Arabs, December 6, 2015. Sign reads, "The mayor has betrayed us; he wants to build a mosque."
Gil Eliyahu

Some 200 Afula residents demonstrated at City Hall on Sunday to protest the fact that over 40 Arab families had won a tender to build homes in the northern city’s Young Afula neighborhood.

Mayor Yitzhak Meron, who went out to speak to the demonstrators, was greeted with catcalls and curses. Police had to escort him back into the building as some of the protesters chased him, called him a traitor and a terrorist, and demanded he resign.

The protesters waved Israeli flags and carried signs that read “Afula – fighting for our home,” and “The mayor has betrayed us, he wants to build a mosque.” Among the demonstrators was the father of Shelly Dadon, an Afula teenager, who was murdered in May 2014 by an Israeli Arab taxi driver. The demonstrators called on the mayor to remember the terror attacks in Afula and demanded that he look Dadon in the eye.

The unrest began last weekend, when a local newspaper published a story entitled, “A mosque in Afula Illit – no longer hard to imagine,” in which it reported the results of the tender. After the story was picked up by other local and national media, a Facebook protest was launched and picked up steam.

On Sunday the Emek Police launched an investigation after a picture was posted on Facebook of the mayor, Meron, in a keffiyeh, next to the 20-year-old picture of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a keffiyeh. Northern District cyber investigators are trying to locate the source of the photo.

The first tender in the neighborhood, which was for 88 plots on which 118 units were to be built, was published in February 2015; a third of those plots were won by Arabs and the other two-thirds by Jews, including ultra-Orthodox Jews. The tender now causing the storm is the second tender, for 27 plots on which 43 units are to be built. That was won solely by Christian and Muslim Arabs. According to the municipality, the project, in the northwestern part of the city, will eventually have 1,800 homes.

Emily Mordechai, whose daughter was killed in a car bombing in Afula in 1993, said that she lives in the neighborhood does not want an Arab neighborhood popping up next door. “I have nothing against them, let them live in their place, and me in mine. Now that I’ve finally achieved peace and quiet, I will again have to have anxiety attacks? I can’t accept that.”

“It’s a powder keg,” said her husband, Yoel. “There could be a murder here today or tomorrow. We’ve had enough attacks here, with Shelly Dadon and Eden Attias [a soldier murdered at the Afula bus station in November 2013]. I work with [Arabs] and it’s fine, but don’t let them come to live in our home.”

An associate of Meron’s told Haaretz that the mayor is against mixing populations and would prefer that Afula remain a Jewish city. “But in this case it’s something totally legal, done in a totally legal fashion, and there’s nothing to pursue when we know the outcome in advance.” The associate said Meron believes that any effort to contest the results of the tender would fail and be a waste of money.