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Mitzpe Ramon development town, southern Israel, 1957

Development town (Hebrew: עיירת פיתוח‎, Ayarat Pitu'ah) is a term used to refer to the new settlements that were built in Israel during the 1950s in order to provide permanent housing to a large influx of Jewish immigrants from Arab countries, Holocaust survivors from Europe and other new immigrants (Olim), who arrived to the newly established State of Israel. The towns were designated to expand the population of the country's peripheral areas and to ease development pressure on the country's crowded centre. The towns are the results of the Sharon plan – the master plan of Israel. The majority of such towns were built in the Galilee in the north of Israel, and in the northern Negev desert in the south. In addition to the new towns, Jerusalem was also given development town status in the 1960s.[1]

In the context of the Arab–Israeli conflict, Jewish refugees from Arab states were initially resettled in refugee camps, known variously as Immigrant camps, ma'abarot, and "development towns". "The “Development towns” were spaces of relegation and marginalization from the outset.[2]



Ma'abara near Nahariya (northern Israel), 1952.

The sudden arrival of over 130,000 Iraqi Jews in Israel in the early 1950s meant that almost a third of people living in ma'abarah (temporary camps) were of Iraqi Jewish origin. At the end of 1949 there had been 90,000 Jews housed in ma'abarot, but by the end of 1951 their population had risen to over 220,000 in around 125 separate communities.[3] Ma'abarot residents were housed in tents or in temporary tin dwellings. Over 80% of the residents were Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries of Middle East and North Africa. The number of people housed in ma'abarot began to decline in 1952, and the last ma'abarot were closed sometime around 1963.[3] Over time, the ma'abarot metamorphosed into towns, or were absorbed as neighbourhoods of the towns they were attached to, and residents were provided with permanent housing. Most of the ma'abarah camps transformed into development towns, with Kiryat Shmona, Sderot, Beit She'an, Yokneam Illit, Or Yehuda and Migdal HaEmek all originating as ma'abarot.


The first development town was Beit Shemesh, founded in 1950 around 20 km from Jerusalem. The newly established towns were mostly populated by Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countriesMorocco, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Tunisia. Development towns were also populated by Holocaust survivors from Europe and Jewish immigrants, who came to the newly established State of Israel. According to Khazzoom, there was a significant relationship between ethnicity and the likelihood of being placed in a development town,[4] with many of the small number of Ashkenazi Jews sent to the towns returning to central Israel.[5] By the 1960s and 1970s, 85–90 percent of development town residents were Mizrahi Jews, leading to an association between Mizrahi identity, peripheral location, and economic deprivation.[6] A high proportion of the population was also religious or traditional, with a 2003 survey showing that 39% of residents would rather Israel be run more by halakhic law.[7]

Many towns gained a new influx of residents during the mass immigration from former Soviet states in the early 1990s.[8] By 1998, 130,000 Russian-speaking immigrants lived in development towns.[5]


Despite businesses and industries being eligible for favorable tax treatment and other subsidies, with the exception of Arad, most of the towns (particularly those in the south) have fared poorly in the economic sense, and often feature amongst the poorest Jewish Areas in Israel.[9] In 1984, the Development Towns project was awarded the Israel Prize for its special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[10]

List of development townsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Teddy Kollek and his life-long dedication Jerusalem Post, 2 January 2007
  2. ^ Yuval Achouch & Yoann Morvan (2012) "The Kibbutz and ”Development Towns” in Israel: Zionist utopias: Ideals ensnared in a tormented history Justice spatiale - Spatial justice
  3. ^ a b Ma'abarot Israeli Center for Educational Technology
  4. ^ A. Khazzoom (2005) "Did the Israeli State Engineer Segregation? On the Placement of Jewish Immigrants in Development Towns in the 1950s", Social Forces, vol. 84 no. 1, pp115-134
  5. ^ a b Erez Tzfadia & Oren Yiftachel (2003) "Between urban and national: Political mobilization among Mizrahim in Israel’s ‘development towns’", Cities, Vol. XX, No. XX, pp1-15
  6. ^ *Oren Yiftachel & Erez Tzfadian (2004) Between Periphery and ‘Third Space’: Identity of Mizrahim in Israel’s Development Towns p208
  7. ^ We're not Kach, but we love Kahane Haaretz
  8. ^ Israel's battered economy BBC News, 21 June 2002
  9. ^ On Location: The deep south Jerusalem Post, 27 December 2007
  10. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1984 (in Hebrew)".