Plan for National Park Threatens to Strangle East Jerusalem’s Issawiya Neighbourhood

Wednesday, 27 April 2011 05:56 Dolev Rahat, Alternative Information Center (AIC)

Jerusalem’s District Committee for Planning and Construction recently approved a new plan to establish part of a “national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem” on lands belonging to the East Jerusalem village of Issawiya. From the residents’ perspective, this eliminates the last remaining land reserves for Issawiya’s development.


A view of the last land reserve in East Jerusalem’s Issawiya, which has been confiscated for construction of a national park. 

The village of Issawiya in East Jerusalem suffers from harsh planning problems. Several areas of the village lack basic infrastructures including roads and sewers. The existing roads are narrow and inappropriate for the extent of movement within the village today. Residents complain of a lack of schools, playgrounds and other public facilities.


An additional serious problem is the difficulty to attain building permits. As a result, residents are forced to build without permits, and to later cope with high fines and home demolitions. During 2010, 15 homes and structures in the village were demolished, directly impacting the lives of 46 people.


The current master plan does not permit high rise buildings. Residents relate that building permits for the few multi-story buildings that do exist in the village were obtained through shady deals with the authorities, such as agreement to land confiscation in exchange for a building permit.


Declarations of the Jerusalem Municipality in its exchanges with the residents, concerning the intention to build “beautiful things” in the village such as a mall or swimming pool, do not convince the residents, who are first and foremost interested in construction of residential buildings in a sufficient amount to meet the growing village’s needs.


In the framework of the “Jerusalem 2000” master plan, some 90 dunams were added to the plan of the village. The plan theoretically ensures new construction or the permit of buildings up to four stories. In practice the plan creates difficulties and numerous demands , such as arrangement of parking, access roads and sewers appropriate for building at this height. Development expenses required to meet these needs fall on the residents.

It should be noted that in numerous cases it will not be possible to transform two story buildings (the maximum height permitted in the previous master plan) to four story buildings without completing dismantling and rebuilding from scratch.


These heavy expenses are out of reach of East Jerusalem residents, 65% of whom lived below the poverty level in 2008. It appears that the new master plan will not solve the housing crisis of Issawiya residents. An alternative master plan prepared by the Israeli association Bimkom, in cooperation with the residents, was rejected by the municipality in 2010.


In addition to the lack of possibility to build tall buildings, the village has no room for expansion. From the West it is closed off by the settlement of French Hill and from the North, by the lands located between Issawiya and the Separation Wall, where the Jerusalem Municipality plans to build a dumping ground for construction material. From the East and South the national park is being planned. Until publication of the latest plan, there remained a slope between the village homes and the campus of Hebrew University. The new plan confiscates this area from the residents.


The use of national parks to push the Palestinian population out is not a new phenomenon. Already in 1986 residents of the South Hebron Hills village of Susiya  were expelled from the caves in which they lived. In their place the Susiya National Park was established.


However, the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem, in the framework of which confiscation of Issawiya lands will be conducted, will impact a much larger population located throughout several East Jerusalem neighbourhoods.


Residents of Silwan have suffered from this planned park for several years already. Following establishment of the “City of David” tourist attraction in the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan, a fourth of all public lands were closed off to the village residents. The 11555 Town Planning Scheme designates 70% of the neighbourhood’s lands for the establishment of car parks, open areas, parks and archaeological sites. Participation of the settler association Elad in designing the plan and funding its creation was strongly criticized by Yossi Havilio, the then legal advisor to the Jerusalem Municipality.


An additional expression of the destruction threatened by a national park to Silwan is the plan for Hamelech Park, in the framework of which the the neighbourhood of Al Bustan will be transformed into a biblical park through extensive home demolitions and the uprooting of hundreds of Palestinians.


Translated to English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC).



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: