“The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’” (Isaiah 49:20)
On May 17th, at a special Jerusalem Day Knesset meeting marking 48 years since Jerusalem was reunited in the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a deep domestic need for more affordable housing after a decade of skyrocketing prices.
Out of 26 countries, Israel has felt the third-steepest increase in housing costs between 2008 and 2014, with home prices rising 87.1% and rent costs rising 43%. (HaAretz)
Hopeful homebuyers in Tel Aviv find themselves having to make a 65% down payment.
With the average price for a Tel Aviv apartment NIS 2.8 million ($723,000) and the average Israeli household income of NIS 19,653 ($5,072), buyers can only qualify for a 35% loan to value payment. (Globe)
In Jerusalem today, a “luxury” three-bedroom apartment costs over NIS 4 million ($1 million) for 1,000 square feet. A fixer-upper is going for NIS 2.5 million ($625,000), both in quiet, West Jerusalem neighborhoods.
By contrast, a three-bedroom apartment in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon HaNetsiv, within walking distance to central Jerusalem, runs from about 1 to 1.6 million shekels ($253,000 to $380,000).
A few blocks away in Arnona, positioned within the Green Line, a similar apartment goes for 2 to 2.5 million shekels ($500,000 to $633,000).
“We were absolutely shocked at the prices here,” said the wife of an American academic whose salary places them in the top ten percent of wage earners in Israel. “It wasn’t even a consideration for us to move across the Green Line.” (csmonitor)
Israel’s unaffordable living conditions have prompted a number of protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since 2010.
Netanyahu addressed this problem by saying, ”I have a clear position—we build in Jerusalem.”
“I ordered the construction of the Har Homa neighborhood, and today there are tens of thousands of residents there, making it a city within a city,” Netanyahu said. “I ordered the construction of the Maaleh Hazeitim neighborhood. We are building in Ramot, we are building in Gilo, we are building in Pisgat Ze’ev and we are building in Ramat Shlomo. We are building inside [Jerusalem] and we are building in its peripheral neighborhoods.”
“We don’t build to clash with the international community; we do this responsibly and judiciously because this is our natural right,” Netanyahu added, referring to the criticism often raised when construction begins in Jerusalem’s majority-Jewish and majority-Arab neighborhoods. (Times of Israel)
Repairing and growing residential areas throughout Jerusalem should help ease congestion in the city as well as housing prices for Israelis whose salaries draw in “less than half” of those in comparable jobs in the United States. (Globes)
Netanyahu warned that “anyone can figure out what will happen if we take the advice to disengage from [Jerusalem] or parts of it. We in the Middle East know what enters territory that is evacuated. What violence and barbarism. The only thing that will ensure the free nature of Jerusalem, the freedom of worship, the liberalism, is Israeli sovereignty.”
He reaffirmed his position that Jerusalem will not be divided again the way it was during the 19-year hold of the Jordanian Arab Legion on Jerusalem’s Old City, which ended in 1967.
“We removed the fences, walls, fortifications and mine fields,” Netanyahu said. “We have put its parts back together. This is not to say the unification is perfect, but we will not go back to the past. Jerusalem is located in the heart of Israel and we will not permit any enemy who seeks our destruction to be there.”
On Monday Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said there would be “no peace or stability in the Middle East” without Eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, a recent survey commissioned by the Binyan Kesher l’Yerhusalayim found about one in four of the public support dividing Jerusalem’s Old City, which would place the Temple Mount, as well as the Muslim and Christian Quarters, under Palestinian control. Fifty percent of respondents supported giving Jerusalem’s majority-Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. Yet 80% supported the continued construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. (BIN)
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is bound firmly together.” (Psalm 122:1–3)