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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
IV 1980 - 1990
Sderoth New Neighborhood
“Be careful what you strive for in your youth, you will get it in you middle age”, I quote again Goethe's epigram, which if not precisely applicable to the case I am going to describe, but contains a relevance which nevertheless will become quite appropriate.  In 1982, I had planned a new neighbourhood for the town of Sderoth in the northern Negev.  The urban concept was a more structured development of the last stage of the Chalamish Quarter in Arad.  I had finally emancipated myself from the dogma of complete separation of pedestrian and vehicle movement.  I had endeavoured to rehabilitate the street as a multi-functional element, which could provide a  'spine of activity' to the neighbourhood.  I had also adapted a richer concept of 'cluster housing', as sub-units within the larger scale of the neighbourhood itself.  I had been strongly impressed by an essay of Hans Blumenfeld, where he quoted the Chinese sage Mencius, who two thousand years ago, had written that: “if a neighbouthood of eight families is formed, the inhabitants will work together, keep each other company while resting in the evening, will guard their property against trespassers from outside, will look after the sick and help the weak, and attend to their private matters after the communal work is done.” Blumenfeld futher comments: “that the formulation of this concept of neighbourliness...is fundamental to achieving sound urban relationships, which town planners vaguely hope to recapture in modern towns. It is desirable that citizens of a city identify strongly with one relatively small group…but what is the size of such a group” he asks “ that permits a ‘human scale’ of relations that is ‘qualitatively’ different from those existing in fundamentally much large groups? ”  Blumenfeld later points out that it seemed possible that: “ In 50 to 100 families, there is a very close relationship between people, each of whom may know each others by face, voice or even name”.  It was in considering these ideas and the implications of the architectural aspects of the propinquity of neighbours, that I developed the concept of ‘cluster housing’. But by the time the plans had been completed and approved by all the relevant authorities, there was an economic depression in Israel, with only a trickle of immigration from abroad.  My innovative plans were put away in the drawing cabinet, ‘on hold’ for better days.

    After a period of ten years in 1992, with the advent of the partial lifting of the Iron Curtain in Europe, there was a great wave of immigration to Israel from the previous Soviet Union.  Israel found itself with an inadequate supply of housing to accommodate the new immigrants.  It also found itself with a Housing Minister, one of whose nicknames was the ‘Bulldozer’.   An ex-general and ex-Defense Minister, it was said that in this particular case he was the right man at the right moment in the right place; it was only partly true. His mistakes in housing, as in other spheres of his political activity, were as great as his girth.  Arik Sharon was his name, the ex-General was now a macho politician. When in public office, as on the battlefield, he always went for the jugular.  But you could not accuse him of prevarication.  When the hundreds of immigrants were arriving by each daily planeload from the old Soviet Union he put into action a four pronged attack.

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