First Afula, now Ofakim: Residents shocked at Bedouin purchases

The same week that residents of Afula discovered that an “instant Arab neighborhood” had been purchased in their city, the residents of Ofakim, in the Negev, made a similar discovery – and some are canceling their building plans.

Israeli citizens who bought plots of land in the city’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood are reconsidering their plans, Walla! News reports Tuesday, after it was revealed that 14 Bedouin families have purchased land tenders in the same area over a 2.5 year period.

“80% of the citizens here observe Shabbat,” one frustrated Ofakim resident in his twenties explained. “They are sure Shabbat will not be kept, that [the Bedouin] will not respect the area here, that they will start up with the Jews – and we do not want any Arab to date a Jew just as they don’t.”

“I will not buy here now because of them,” he explained. “We want a Jewish area, a religious area. They have their own cities, they should build there.”

“This is not about racism but cultural differences,” Eli Shriki, another alarmed buyer, stated in a Facebook post to raise awareness about the issue. “Mixing with the Bedouin have not made good neighborhoods.”

“We see what is happening today in the mixed cities: they harass girls and work against the state,” he continued. “I am sure that following their purchase, the property value in the area will decrease, so I froze my purchase. I’m not a racist but anyone should live in a place that suits him mentally and culturally.”

Another city resident noted that the Bedouin, for their part, refuse to sell to Jews. Eliezer Avitan attempted to buy an apartment in the Bedouin city of Rahat several years ago, but was refused entry on account of his ethnicity. Whereas the manager of building in the area managed to dodge a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Avitan, the same manager is now attempting to push the Bedouin presence in Ofakim.

The Israel Lands Authority (ILA) dodged responsibility for the debacle on Tuesday, stating that “we sell land equally for all Israeli citizens regardless of race, religion or sex.”

The Ofakim municipality, meanwhile, blamed an “unprecedented building boom” for the phenomenon.

“We built in Ofakim quality residential neighborhoods – among them Ramat Hashaked, a residential neighborhood of 1,800 housing units, of which 700 are units for private construction,” it said, adding that demand for land is up “400%.”

“With any such situation, mainly for families looking to build their homes, a ‘scalping’ phenomenon occurs, where land becomes heavily sought-after for commercial use and profit-making,” it continued. “In order to prevent such phenomena and to strengthen the settlement in the city, the Israel Lands Authority received the recommendation of the mayor of Ofakim and restricted resale of the land in Ofakim from five years after the date of purchase.”

“The article on the subject engages in a variety of people interested in buying land for construction, with some or most of them seeking to resell the land for all purposes if it Ofakim or any other city. Like the majority of the cities of Israel, the Israel Lands Authority owns the land and that brings them to market.”

“There is no ability of Ofakim municipality or the local authority to prevent other Israeli citizens from purchasing the land,” it added.