In two Israeli settlements, a booming demand for more space
...As the Obama administration pushes for a total West Bank settlement freeze and Israel insists on allowing continued expansion inside existing settlements, Beitar and a second ultra-religious city, Modiin Illit, illustrate the roots of the dispute over Israeli development on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
...because these settlements are located relatively close to Israel proper, an agreement on a border modification and land swap is a realistic option for resolving the dispute here. Even though they have moved into the vortex of a decades-old geopolitical dispute, the residents of these communities are not nationalists like those at the forefront Jewish settler movement who seek territorial expansion.
"We didn't come here for politics or to fight. We want to live in the land of Israel, but it doesn't matter where – east or west," says Beitar Illit Mayor Meir Rubenstein. "To our great misfortune, the government put us here and now we're stuck with Obama."
That's why I have problems with Hareidim. They're self-centered, lacking any sense of the true sanctity of the Land of Israel and they don't tell the truth in full. They knew exactly what Betar Illit was all about.
Beitar Illit is about a 20-minute drive southwest of Jerusalem. The settlement looks out onto hilltops dotted by red-roofed houses that are part of the "Etzion bloc," a group of suburban settlements which left-wing Israeli governments have sought to annex in a land swap with Palestinians in previous negotiations.
The annual population growth in Beitar is nearly twice the overall rate of about 5 percent for the West Bank settlements. Mr. Rubenstein complained that Beitar Illit is planned to include 10,000 housing units, but there are permits for only 7,000 – the remainder are on hold until further notice.
...Because strictly religious Jewish groups seek to block out trappings of modernity, they prefer to live in closed communities where advertising is tailored to their sensibilities and cable or satellite TV infrastructure is banned. Combined with the fact that Beitar Illit and Modiin Illit have the highest reproductive rate in the country of about eight children per woman, that has created surging demand for residential units.
Despite the slump in real estate prices around the world, values in Beitar Illit are climbing. Fraida Sterka, a local broker, said that prices have gone up 5 percent in the last two months...