NAZARETH ILLIT, Israel — This hilltop city has placid parks, broad avenues, low crime, a fancy mall and trash collection three times a week — all very nice and neat, and by design, slightly dull.Read the rest here.
But not these days.
Over the past few years, well-to-do Arab Israelis, both Muslim and Christian, drove their minivans 10 minutes up the hill from the ancient, overcrowded nearly all-Arab city of Nazareth and snapped up some sweet but pricey five-bedroom, four-bath houses.
Many of the homes are worth a half-million dollars or more, and Arab citizens of Israel now count for 18 percent of the 50,000 residents in “Upper Nazareth,” as it is translated in English.
They are welcome here, says the mayor, as long as they remember one very important rule.
“This is a Jewish city,” said Shimon Gafsou of his adopted home town, “now and forever.”
To be more specific: “I would rather cut off my right arm than build an Arab school,” the mayor said in an interview on his terrace at city hall.
Ditto mosques. “No, no, no. No mosques, ever,” said Gafsou. Nor churches. Or Ramadan lanterns or manger scenes. “And no Christmas trees,” said the mayor of a town that abuts the largest Arab city in Israel, celebrated as the childhood home of Jesus.