Israel Approves ‘Unprecedented’ $160 Million Beit Shemesh Development Plan

Ultra-Orthodox children playing in a construction site in Beit Shemesh on December 26, 2011. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JNS) – Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday approved a multi-year, 500 million shekel ($160.9 million) development plan for the city of Beit Shemesh, according to an official statement.

The plan, presented by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Gideon Saar, includes 300 million shekels ($96.5 million) for public transportation, 82 million shekels ($26.4 million) for “public institutions and expanding infrastructure” and some 50 million shekels ($16.1 million) for “strengthening the municipality” with the goal of providing services to residents, the statement said. Other main goals are strengthening vocational training and welfare services, boosting personal security and public health, and culture and leisure activities.

“The city of Beit Shemesh is a wonderful place with excellent people, that is facing many challenges. Together with the local leadership led by Mayor Dr. Aliza Bloch, we are promoting a program on an unprecedented scale that will improve quality of life in the city,” said Bennett.

Mayor Bloch thanked Bennett, saying “For years they talked; the Bennett government is taking action and effecting change. The story of Beit Shemesh is the story of the State of Israel.”

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the city’s population has grown by some 63 percent over the past decade (adding some 50,000 residents)—the highest growth rate among the country’s 15 largest cities. The trend is expected to continue.

This massive growth has led to gaps in infrastructure development, which the present plan aims to address.

“Today’s government decision allocates unprecedented budgets that are designed to significantly improve quality of life for the residents of Beit Shemesh,” the statement concluded.

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