Nazareth has an unwelcome twin: a Jewish city named Nazareth Ilit. In Hebrew, “Ilit” means both physically higher (“upper”) and morally superior (better). Nazareth Ilit was built in the late 1950s on land confiscated from Nazareth for “public purposes” – meaning, in the context of a Jewish state, for the good of the Jewish, not the local Palestinian, population. Israel quickly began to settle Jewish immigrants in Nazareth Ilit as part of its “Judaisation of the Galilee” programme.
Nowadays, officials tend to avoid the use of the term “Judaisation”, with its obviously racist overtones. Instead they talk of “developing” the Galilee and the Negev, the two regions seen by the state as under threat from non-Jews, or even in terms of “bringing strong populations” to the two regions, accurately conveying how they see the existing, native population…
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Nazareth Ilit was designed to contain the development and growth its Arab neighbour; to isolate and fragment Nazareth from the Arab villages nearby, preventing the emergence of a large conurbation that might create a proper capital for the country’s Palestinian minority; to intimidate and monitor the city through the official buildings that watch over it from their vantage point atop its main ridge; and to provide a justification for redirecting public funds away from Nazareth to the Jewish city.
The Judaisation process has not gone entirely to plan, however. Few Jews want to live in Nazareth Ilit: as soon as new immigrants acculturate, they head for a life in the country’s centre. Unable to find buyers among Israeli Jews, the vendors reluctantly sell to middle-class buyers from Nazareth, who have nowhere left to build in their own city.
Nazareth’s rightwing mayor, Shimon Gapso, is determined to end this reversal of the Judaisation process. He is making room in his secular city up to 30,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, apparently in the hope their fanatical fundamentalism will drive out the Arab residents.
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