Arab families increasingly moving to Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem

The French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

While Israel is receiving heavy American and international criticism for the construction of apartment buildings for Jews in largely Arab eastern Jerusalem, more Arabs are choosing to live in that part of the city due to cheaper rent options as well as access to better municipal services.

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the Mount Scopus area—which is the home of Hebrew University, where many Palestinians study—about 16 percent of residents are either Arab citizens of Israel or Palestinians. 

“Really it’s not a matter of ideology,” Rawya Mazal, an Israeli Arab realtor, told Reuters. "It's about convenience, living close to campus or making an investment.”

Just more than 7 percent of residents in the French Hill neighborhood are Arabs, figures from 2013 show, but Mazal believes that the true figure is nearly 20 percent. In the neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Yaacov, northeast of Jerusalem's Old City, between 1 and 2 percent of residents are Israeli Arab citizens or Palestinian residents of Israel. 

But for Arabs, moving into Jewish neighborhoods presents a challenge given the recent string of Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli Jewish civilians.

“Relations between Arabs and Jews have become intolerable,” said Sarhan Ganayem, an Israeli Arab who has lived in Jerusalem for 12 years but has decided to move to northern Israel with his family.

“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.”

Posted on December 8, 2014 .