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Karen Edlund reports on housing and urban development in Haifa

Posted: January 31, 2014

Finally, after a long trip from the Gaza Strip to Haifa the night before, we started our program with our Haifa counterparts.  The heart of this program is pairing the Boston participants with our counterparts in similar organizations operating in Haifa, Boston’s “sister city” for the JCRC.  I am paired with Hagit Naali-Joseph, and urban planner focusing on housing, rebuilding communities and large-scale urban regeneration.  

The morning was spent getting to know each other.  We had presentations from two urban planners who discussed the challenges and opportunities in their city.  They have a program called "Social Hub."  Architects, planners & designers work with communities to learn local needs and to build a knowledge base.  The idea is for them to socially engaged and committed when they plan housing and other economic development in their city.

We then split into groups to head into neighborhoods around Haifa.  I visited Halisa and Newe Paz, Arab and Ethiopian neighborhoods on the eastern edge of the city.  We spent the afternoon walking the neighborhoods, talking to the community social workers and residents about the challenges of change in their communities.  We saw how a small Arab neighborhood hoped to transform a piece of land abandoned by an owner who fled the country years ago during one of the wars.  

My favorite was an older Ethiopian resident who knew everyone in his community – he came here over 20 years ago.  His hope for the community?  More playgrounds for the children.

We returned to the center city and took a long walk around the downtown area – a mix of old and new.  Haifa is a diverse, integrated (at least by Israeli standards) city.  It is a port city aspiring to revitalize the waterfront – similar to Baltimore, Boston, or Barcelona.   And on our walk we went into a small bakery with the most incredible assortment of baklava I have ever seen (I had to post pictures!)   

Top Photo: Ethiopian neighborhood
Photos (left to right): Arab neighborhood; Baklava Bakery; Senior housing; Urban renewal in Haifa

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