Jewish residents of Jerusalem are leaving the city in far greater numbers than they are moving to it. The majority of them are young couples and families.
The average price for an apartment in West Jerusalem is 1.5 million shekels and in the adjacent Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem it’s only 600,000 shekels.
Aryeh King who recently visited Toronto is a Jerusalem city councillor and founder of the Israel Land Fund (ILF), which reclaims Jewish land. He blames the negative migration of Jewish residents on the Prime Minister who “freezes construction for Jews/Israelis simply because of their religion and race” and on Mayor Nir Barkat, for not fighting the government freeze and for not enforcing the law against the Arab building “criminals” in East Jerusalem. Arabs, said Arieh, can build as much as they want – legally and illegally.
In Jerusalem there are eight neighbourhoods where Jews are forbidden to enter. In spite of the fact that most criminal activity, especially the recent onslaught of knifings and terror attacks come largely from those areas, there are no police stationed there. Large signs clearly state “no entrance for Israelis”. Arieh King calls them “apartheid signs”. Yet, he says, Arab Israelis are free to go wherever they want.
He is also outraged at the amount of Arab illegal building – 42,000 illegal apartments, 12 to 14 story buildings, some even on JNF land. “East Jerusalem is one of the cheapest areas because it is flooded with illegal apartments,” he said. “It’s like an illegal town inside a city”. At the same time, building in Jerusalem for Jewish occupancy is at a virtual standstill. Young Jewish families are leaving because they cannot afford to live there. “Arabs are favoured in building rights”, he said. “This is the reality in Israel.”
Arieh, 44, was born on Kibbutz Alumim near Gaza. He is one of the ten original residents of Ma’ale Zeitim on the Mount of Olives, where he currently lives with his wife and six children.
For more than 10 years, he has been fighting to reclaim land in Israel. He has been active both in recovery and preservation of Jewish land in East Jerusalem as well as throughout Israel. Through Israel’s legal system, he is the only one working to identify and restore Jewish owned, abandoned (usually in l948 or 1967) properties to their rightful owners and has redeemed entire neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, such as Beit Chanina. He has also helped in mixed Arab Jewish cities such as Akko (Are) and in agricultural areas of the Galil.
In 2007,while trying to recover land for the community on the Mount of Olives, Arieh started the Israel Land Fund. It was founded to combat what he calls the “Silent Front” of land encroachment in Israel. Since Israel is a democracy, anyone who wishes to purchase property there is able to do so. As a result, more and more Arabs and non Jews are buying land all over Israel.
Arieh believes all the land of Israel belongs to each and every Jew no matter where they live. The mission of the ILF is to ensure that Jewish land is once again reclaimed and in Jewish hands. They offer opportunities to any Jew to personally acquire a piece of the Land, part of a building or a number of buildings. “The donor or investor thus, becomes an active and eternal part of the Land”.
He urges “Every Jew to buy land in Israel; it doesn’t matter where or how much. Some think it’s difficult, complicated, dangerous – it’s not. We will help you.”
“If we don’t wake up”, he warns,” in another 25 years what happened with Gaza could easily happen with Jerusalem. Bring Jews back to the areas where they lived before or else it will pass to our enemy.”
Arieh is still a member of the Jerusalem City Council, where he continues to fight for the rights of Jews to live and travel in every part of Jerusalem.