On 4 November, Jewish and Arab participants in the change agents course for planners that the SFP runs together with the Arab Center for Alternative Planning travelled to Wadi Ara. There they met with Mr. Mudar Younis, Chair of the Wadi Ara Local Council. Younis told us about the challenges to village development and the housing shortage. Afterwards, we heard a presentation by Dr. Ainaih Banna of the Wadi Ara / Nahal Iron planning and building commission, which serves seven communities in the area. Banna is also a graduate of the first SFP change agents course for planners.
Dr. Banna spoke about two current issues with which the commission is dealing: one is the intention to expand the Harish community to 150,000 inhabitants. If the plan is implemented, it would swallow land reserves that could serve the Arab communities of the area and stunt their future development. Another issue is the intention to change the planned route of the railway line that is supposed to serve the residents of Wadi Ara, and to move it further away. Whereas the original route is planned to follow the road, the new route is more distant and will thereefore not be useful to Wadi Ara’s Arab communities. The struggle focuses on restoring the originally planned route close to the road.
After the lecture, the group went out to explore the region. We met with Mr. Ahmad Milham, Chair of the Popular Committee Against Housing Demolitions, and with Ali Kabha from Umm al-Kutuf. This Arab village is very close to the Jewish town of Harish. We went to a vantage point that allowed us to overlook the entire area. We finished uo with a delicious meal at the Home Restaurant in Umm al-Fahm.