The development style has grown in popularity, with hundreds of shopping malls opening across the country -- mainly in suburban and exurban locations. Small businesses within the central cities are struggling to stay afloat.
"Beer Sheva, also known as the capital of the Negev and home to 186,000 Israelis, is representative of a wider trend in suburban development in Israel, which is fast becoming the California of the Middle East in terms of commercial real estate. Until the 1990s, the Israel Land Administration locked away nearly all non-urban land as agricultural, with stiff restrictions for building on it. But after a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union arrived that decade, the ILA softened the rules. By 2004, 121 exurbs, called "community settlements," were up and running, served by gas stations, supermarkets, and shopping centers built legally and illegally on farmland. Israel's first mall went up in a Tel Aviv suburb in 1986. Today, 145 enclosed shopping centers and malls are listed on the online directory Israelmalls.net. And mall construction may soon accelerate thanks to a controversial reform passed in early August that will sell off some 200,000 acres of state-owned land (about three percent of Israel's total area) to private developers-a likelihood that most local shopkeepers in more central urban districts aren't happy about."
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