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Monday, May 08, 2006

Arabs Moving to Pisgat Zev

The Washington Times reports this morning that several hundred Arabs have moved to Pisgat Zev in order to remain on the Israeli side of the 'security fence' when it is completed. As you might imagine, this has caused property values in Pisgat Zev to drop, leading to more Arabs moving in.
The security barrier, designed to seal off Jerusalem from the West Bank, has driven up real estate and rental prices in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as thousands of Palestinians return to the city limits.

Fearing that they may be stripped of residency rights that give them access to Israeli government social services, they are willing to pay higher prices for small dwellings on the Israeli side of the barrier.

"They want to escape the wall," said Jamal Natsche, a real-estate broker from Beit Hanineh. "If you're stuck on the other side, in the long run, you'll lose your ID."

The rising prices in Arab neighborhoods are prompting people such as Mr. Kusideh to consider Pisgat Ze'ev, which was developed as a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem in the 1980s. There, an influx of Palestinians is driving prices in the opposite direction.

Only a few hundred Arabs live in the neighborhood of 45,000 residents, but the flow is increasing.

"I didn't expect that they would sell it to us. There are a lot of Jews that won't sell apartments to Arabs," said Mr. Kusideh's wife, Grace, who hails from a Christian Palestinian village near the West Bank city of Jenin.

At work, she faced disbelief from fellow Arabs.

"I told them we bought in Pisgat Ze'ev, and they said, 'What? Pisgat Ze'ev is a [Jewish] settlement.' They were a bit astonished."

The economics of the Jerusalem housing market are making the move to Pisgat Ze'ev increasingly attractive for Palestinians. The two-bedroom apartment that the Kusideh family once rented for $400 a month in Beit Hanineh is going for more than $600.

Israeli banks, meanwhile, are willing to offer mortgage financing for home purchases in Pisgat Ze'ev, but not in Beit Hanineh, and Pisgat Ze'ev offers a much higher level of planning and services.

Mr. Natsche said the bureaucratic procedures for buying in Jewish neighborhoods are more transparent, making it easier to buy, but Jewish homeowners often show resistance.

"In the long run, prices are going down because the area is being invaded by Arabs," he said. "When [sellers] hear I have an Arab client, they hesitate and say that they don't feel comfortable doing the deal, even though it's the same money."
A couple of observations:

1. Despite the fact that I would never sell my apartment in a religious Jewish neighborhood to an Arab, I find it comforting that those Jews who choose to sell to Arabs are not being murdered. (This comes from someone whose parents were harassed for selling their Natick, Massachusetts starter house to blacks in 1964).

2. The fact that 'Palestinians' who don't recognize the state of Israel would rather live in Israel than in 'Palestine' speaks volumes about the freedom and rights that an Arab has an Israel as compared with the lack of both that they are likely to have in 'Palestine' or in any Arab country.


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