Workshop 2: Planning for Ultra-Orthodox Communities: conflicts and dilemmas

Coordinator: Yael Heyman (Beit Shemesh’s City Architect)
Email: yaelhey@gmail.com

This workshop provides a glimpse into the insular world of Israel’s Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox (also known as Hassidim), while shedding light on the unique dilemmas and complexities planners face when designing cities and neighborhoods for their speical needs. Participants will have the opportunity to meet practitioners and learn about the community’s distinct lifestyle, culture and socioeconomic realities (and one of the world’s highest birth rates). The workshop will explore the conflicts that emerge when housing is built for the ultra-Orthodox in areas where non-Haredim live, and the tensions that develop between the two communities as a result.

The main case study for the workshop is the town of Beit Shemesh, located near Jerusalem, where one of the most heated conflicts is occurring today between the town’s non-Orthodox population, and the more recent influx of Haredi households.

Beit Shemesh was founded in the 1950s in order to provide basic-level housing and public services to Jewish immigrants – one of some 30 such “development towns” built from scratch. Development towns are a unique feature of the Israeli planning landscape.

Since the mid-1990s, the huge demand for housing by Haredi families in Beit Shemesh began to over-spill from their Jerusalem crowded neighborhoods to Beit Shmesh. Local and national planning bodies designed new neighborhoods specifically for a Haredi population, yet even that effort was unable to meet the high growth rate and special needs for public services. In recent years, secular or moderately religious households argue that they are being pushed out, and feel that their lifestyle and values are being threatened. Beit Shemesh has become notorious for the outright inter-community conflicts.

Tentative schedule
8:30 am Departure from Haifa hotels
10 am Tel Aviv pick-up (if there is demand) 6 pm Tel Aviv drop-off
7.30 pm Return to Haifa hotels.