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Palestinian paper: Arabs increasingly moving to Jewish neighborhoods in East ‎Jerusalem

     ‎“(Reuters) - Little noticed amid the furor over one of Israel's most contentious policies, a ‎small but growing number of Arabs are moving into Jewish settlements on occupied ‎land in East Jerusalem, drawn by cheaper rent and better services.‎

For decades, Israel has encouraged Jews to settle in East Jerusalem, changing the ‎population balance, provoking Palestinian anger and drawing international ‎condemnation.‎

But in one such settlement, around Mount Scopus where the Hebrew University is ‎based and many Palestinians study, about 16 percent of residents are either Arab ‎citizens of Israel or Palestinians, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.‎
‎‘Really it's not a matter of ideology,’ said Rawya Mazal, an Israeli Arab realtor who sells ‎or lets properties to Palestinian families in a nearby settlement at French Hill. ‘It's about ‎convenience, living close to campus or making an investment.’‎
Cross-community relations aren't always harmonious. Few if any Arabs live on Jewish ‎settlements in the occupied West Bank, and a surge of violence in recent months has ‎persuaded some to leave those in East Jerusalem.‎

Like so much in the region, the ethnic mix is complex. Official figures from 2013 show ‎‎7.4 percent of French Hill residents are Arabs, and Mazal believes the true non-Jewish ‎population is closer to 20 percent.‎

While the high proportion of Arab residents in French Hill and Mount Scopus is ‎probably exceptional, the trend is visible in other East Jerusalem settlements too.‎

In the working-class areas of Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Yaacov to the northeast of ‎Jerusalem's Old City, 1 to 2 percent of residents are now Israeli Arab or Palestinian, ‎figures show.‎

The Jerusalem municipality does not collect ethnic data, but Uzi Chen, the City Hall ‎representative for northern districts, said "several hundred" Arab families live in Pisgat ‎Ze'ev and Neve Yaakov, which have a combined population of 63,000.‎
Palestinians living in the settlements are mostly from East Jerusalem, which Israeli ‎forces seized in the 1967 Middle East war. As Israel regards all of the city as its unified ‎capital, they hold Israeli residency permits although they are not citizens.‎
However, most world powers do not recognize Israel's designation of East Jerusalem, ‎and want to see it as the capital of a future Palestinian state.‎


Sabrine Jabber, 26, is a Muslim Arab who has spent half her life in Neve Yaakov, a ‎collection of white high-rises that expanded as a settlement in the 1970s.‎

While living in a religiously conservative neighborhood, she plays down the effect of ‎the recent tensions in Jerusalem that have led to violence between Palestinians and ‎Israelis.‎

‎‘Nothing has changed for us,’ she said, sunning herself on the rear terrace of her ‎block. ‘My neighbors know me and I know them. We get on fine.’‎

Arabs living in Neve Yaakov tend to send their children to schools in the nearby ‎Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina, and if they want to go to the mosque, they ‎just cross the road.‎

Moussab Abu Ramouz, a Palestinian who works in a supermarket in Neve Yaakov but ‎lives in Beit Hanina, said rents in his area were up to 25 percent more expensive than ‎in the settlement, which also has better public transport.‎

What is more, while Palestinians pay municipal taxes at the same rates as Jewish ‎residents, their neighborhoods tend to have much poorer services, with rubbish seldom ‎collected, the sidewalks in disrepair and street-lighting sparse.‎
While some middle-class Palestinians and Israeli Arabs may be attracted by practical ‎considerations, moving into a settlement does not come without problems…‎

Sarhan Ganayem, an Arab Israeli, has lived in Jerusalem settlements for 12 years, first ‎in French Hill and then in Neve Yaakov. But he and his family have had enough.‎

‎‘Relations between Arabs and Jews have become intolerable,’ said Ganayem, an ‎accountant whose wife is giving up a good job as a city water engineer so that they can ‎move to north Israel.‎

He said he had felt more menaced in recent months, following a string of violent ‎attacks by Palestinians on Israelis and several reprisals by Israelis against ‎Palestinians.‎

The family next door has two sons in the Israeli army and he said there was never any ‎exchange of greetings with them.‎
‎‘I don't want to be mistaken for a terrorist,’ Ganayem said. ‘And I don't want to risk a real ‎terrorist turning up and maybe mistaking my wife, who is kind of blonde and Russian-‎looking, for a Jew.’”‎

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