A group of haredi entrepreneurs is working on a plan to build apartment buildings in Tel Aviv as an affordable housing option for young ultra-Orthodox families, the haredi Mishpacha weekly reported.
Many young haredi couples are having difficulty finding apartments in Bnei Brak due to the city's crowdedness which has led some to extend their searches to Tel Aviv. However, "normal" buildings in the city are not adjusted for haredi residents, who require Shabbat elevators for example.
For this reason the entrepreneurs are working to purchase dozens of synagogues, mikvehs and old public buildings owned by haredim in central Tel Aviv which currently stand deserted.
According to the plan, these structures will be demolished and replaced by new buildings adjusted for ultra-Orthodox needs with the aim of turning them into cheap housing projects of a minimal construction standard. "Nothing would be better than turning these places into new haredi immigration incentives for Tel Aviv," the newspaper said.
One of the supporters of the plan is Rabbi Avraham Baruch Rakovsky, who told the newspaper that a Jewish-French family has already purchased several buildings in Tel Aviv in an effort to turn them into housing options for young haredim. Similar attempts were made a decade ago but were unsuccessful.
The newspaper reported that the plan is slowly coming into fruition. According to the report, a purchasing contract was recently signed with several owners of a synagogue in a well-known Tel Aviv building. The synagogue is being refurbished in order to make it suitable for haredi families.
"Tel Aviv has become popular among the haredi sector in the past year, mainly among the newly-religious based in Tel Aviv who wish to remain in the area," chairman of the newly-religious movement Yehosua Meiri said. "This is easy to do now, since there are five serious and well-funded yeshivot operating in Tel Aviv."
Rabbi and Attorney Uri Segev, chairman of the Hiddush foundation for religious freedom and equality said in response: "The State is investing a fortune in building affordable haredi communities in order to avoid conflicts, while elements in the haredi sector initiate conquest campaigns to 'populate the spiritual desert' in secular areas.