The Israeli government approved the establishment of a new community of 500 homes in the Lower Galilee, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at the beginning of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
The community, to be called Ramat Arbel, will be “located on the site of a settlement from the Second Temple period,” he said.
“This is a festive day for the State of Israel and for the pioneering families taking root at the site. This is very good news for the strengthening of Jewish settlement in the Galilee, which is very important to all of us,” he said.
“This community is located in a place where there was a community in the Second Temple era and in the time of the Tannaim [rabbinic sages]. You have certainly heard of them and if you have not, come and I will tell you about Nittai the Arbelite. He lived in the community of Arbel at the foot of Mount Arbel, and we know where this community was,” the prime minister continued.
“I remind you that this is the fourth community that this government will have established, in addition to the extensive construction that we are advancing throughout our country. I commend Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf for this important effort,” Netanyahu said.
Nittai of Arbela, also called Mattai of Arbela, was av beit din or vice president of the Sanhedrin under Nasi Joshua ben Perachyah at the time of Hasmonean (Maccabean) leader and high priest John Hyrcanus (reigned 134–104 BCE).
During a visit to the site on Thursday, Goldknopf vowed to see the plans approved by the National Council for Planning and Construction.
“Beyond increasing supply and lowering housing prices, this has important news for strengthening Jewish settlement in the Galilee,” he said.
Ramat Arbel is located on privately owned Jewish land. The community received Cabinet approval back in 2003 but development was bogged down by legal issues.
Mount Arbel is a popular hiking spot, featuring an ancient cave fortress and a view of the Sea of Galilee from the top.
The prime minister in his remarks also addressed the Education Ministry’s goals for the coming school year and an initiative to promote housing construction and other improvements for the Druze and Circassian communities.
Around 150,000 Druze live in Israel, primarily in the Golan, the Galilee and the Mount Carmel area around Haifa. Israel’s 5,000 Circassians live in the Galilee towns of Kfar Kana and Rehaniya. The men from both communities serve in the IDF.