Spring 2004


 

  Prof. Zvi Eisikovits Receives Mandate: Clean Up Haifa’s Hadar
 

The once-thriving Haifa commercial district of Hadar, located mid-way up the Carmel mountain, is now perhaps the city’s biggest crime district.  Residents, most of whom are either Russian new immigrants or elderly long-time inhabitants living in now-shabby buildings, are afraid to venture out at night.  The streets are then taken over by prostitutes.  The Hadar section has become Haifa’s prime bordello.  But even during the day, the elderly in particular are subject to purse snatches and rough behavior.  Day or night, drugs are readily available.   Family violence is endemic.  Hadar, despite the presence of the city’s largest shuk, or fruit and vegetable market, has become a “combat zone,” in much the same way that defined a section of downtown Boston and the Times Square area of New York City.

        The mayors of those two American cities eventually contained and cleaned up those districts.  The new Mayor of Haifa has also decided enough is enough, and he has called on native resources to deal with the problem.   Specifically the mayor has asked Prof. Zvi Eisikovits, Dean of the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Studies and one of the country’s leading social planning figures and a specialist in the prevention of deviance, to head a committee on the rejuvenation of Hadar.

Asked why he was chosen, Eisikovits pointed, without false modesty, to his ability to implement up-to-date knowledge in the field of social services and his knowledge of adolescents.  Then, too, as dean, he has various social work, social welfare, and health authorities readily available that he can refer to and put into action.

        “If they took Manhattan and rejuvenated, we can do it with Hadar,” he told Focus.  “I have a concept of how to do it, and we’ll do it.  I guarantee it,” he stated confidently.      

His concept involves an overall approach, not just pinpointing one problem at a time, since “one problem feeds into the other.”  He defines the idea as “integrated intervention,” involving law enforcement, social services, and environmental clean up.

The recently appointed committee that Eisikovits heads has met only twice so far, and so they are a long way from the light at the end of the tunnel, which will be in three to five years, according to the social planner.  The committee members have only started to identify the goals of the project, to map out the available services in the district and draw a red line through non-relevant services, and to decide how to attack the various problems, including bringing back relevant services.

One of these problems concerns small businesses, which always distinguished Hadar.  However, their rejuvenation requires an added action, Eisikovits said.  This is to rid them of the crime groups that today control many, if not most, of the district’s small businesses.  He wants eventually to bring in small artisans and art and boutique shops.  Hadar’s narrow streets do not allow large shopping malls, which in any case have been erected in the Haifa suburbs for the most part.

Eisikovits also sees his job as encouraging younger people to return to one of the modern city’s oldest neighborhoods.  “We have to provide them with a sense that’s it a livable environment,” he observes, adding, “We will use a similar, though not identical method, to what was done in New York.”

The University has the largest base of social science and social policy knowledge, he said.  The mayor wants to use the city as a laboratory for knowledge utilization, and to cooperate with the University to that end.

As Eisikovits remarked, all this will be a function of resources, meaning that he and his colleagues will also have to apply abroad for funds, and a concentration of effort.  Then perhaps Hadar can return to its past splendor (the translation of the neighborhood’s name).

 

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