New Research: South African ‘know-how’ and Israeli ‘facts of life’: the planning of Afridar, Ashkelon, 1949–1956 in Planning Perspectives

South African ‘know-how’ and Israeli ‘facts of life’: the planning of Afridar, Ashkelon, 1949–1956, Planning Perspectives by Ayala Levin.

In 1949, in the newly founded state of Israel, South African architects Norman Hanson and Roy Kantorowich planned the city of Ashkelon and, within it, the exclusive neighbourhood unit Afridar. Managed by the South African Jewish Appeal, which initiated and funded the project, Afridar presented a radical exception to Israel’s centralized planning approach during that period.

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Figure 6. Arieh Sharon, Plan for Migdal-Gad – Ashkelon, 1951, with added key by the author. Source: Sharon, Arieh. Physical Planning in Israel. Jerusalem: Government Printer, 1951 [in Hebrew].

An early example of a semi-private settlement initiative for an ethnic and class-based enclave reserved for ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Jewish immigrants, it functioned as a ‘model town’ for the immigrant population from the Middle East and North Africa, which was housed by the government in the rest of the city of Ashkelon. Afridar’s enclave reproduced planning practices from South Africa, which had been coloured by race since the 1920s. Despite its exclusive image, it was modelled after progressive experiments in the design of Native Townships. Their main objective of such experiments was to improve the standards of housing of racially discriminated populations yet, in practice, they served as a tool to implement apartheid policies. This paper interrogates this ambivalence of social aspirations and complicity with state segregation practices through examining the translation of apartheid’s planning practices to the Israeli context, and the negotiations and conflicts this translation entailed.

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