- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

JERUSALEM Well-heeled Israeli Arabs have begun buying homes in an upscale Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem, upsetting community leaders, who have begun urging real-estate agents to help preserve the "special character" of the neighborhood.

"It's not that I'm racist," said Uri Michaeli, the head of the committee controlling the nicest part of the French Hill neighborhood. "But just as I'm against ultra-Orthodox Jews living in the middle of a secular neighborhood, so I feel that Arabs should not come and live in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood. That's not healthy."

The normally quiet and refined neighborhood was built after its capture in the 1967 War on land that had been state property under the Jordanians. It became a fashionable Jewish suburb, with attractive apartment blocks amid greenery and spectacular views stretching as far as the Dead Sea.

In recent years, many Arab-Israeli professionals, including lawyers, doctors and teachers at the nearby Hebrew University, have bought or rented apartments. They say it provides a superior quality of life and better municipal services than are available in the large Arab population centers of east Jerusalem, which lie nearby.

"We get cable television, we can get pizzas delivered to the house, we can bank around the corner and the municipality collects the garbage very regularly and most of that does not happen where I used to live," one Arab-Israeli resident said. And because it's so close to the main Arab communities, the parents can easily drive their children to nearby Arabic-language schools.

But Jewish residents such as Mr. Michaeli, say they are afraid the Arabs will become so numerous that Jews will sell their homes and leave, much as white Americans abandoned their inner-city neighborhoods to blacks a generation ago.

Mr. Michaeli said it is mainly for security reasons that he wants to keep the neighborhood as Jewish as possible.

"We don't know who these [new residents] are and who's behind them. Perhaps the Palestinian Authority is giving them money so they can move in and force the Jews out," he said.

The suspicion reflects the breakdown in trust between moderate Jews and Israeli Arabs.

Until the current uprising began 20 months ago, many Jewish Israelis enjoyed bargain hunting and dining in Israeli-Arab towns and villages. All that has changed.

Jews were shocked when, at the start of the uprising, a small minority of Arab-Israeli youths took to the streets, throwing stones and burning cars. Israeli security forces fatally shot a total of 13 Arab Israelis in several clashes.

Israelis also suspect that suicide bombers are sometimes guided or driven to their targets by Israeli Arabs.

Mr. Michaeli, who lost a brother in a previous Arab-Israeli war, has acted to keep Arabs out of French Hill by writing to real-estate agents to "do your utmost to preserve the uniqueness and special character of the neighborhood."

He said he was driven to send out the letter after an Arab-Israeli family moved into a home on the street where he lives.

The agents, according to Mr. Michaeli, have responded that they will "show sensitivity" when they rent or sell property.

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