Private developers, under authority of the city of Jeruaslem, intend to pave the Jerualem Hills, extending the sprawl of the city 12 miles beyond its current permiter, clear-cutting JNF-planted forests: forests which you and I have planted with our contributions to that organization over these many years. The ‘Safdi’ plan would build 20,000 new homes as well as new commercial zones in Mount Heret, Ramat Hadassah and the Lavan Mountain Range.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) is organizing opposition to the plan and offering viable alternatives which would permit the same level of growth within Jerusalem without further trampling the region’s environment.
SPNI is lobbying for alternative growth plans, which focus on strengthening the residential development of the inner city and bolstering the city’s economy. The (SPNI-coordinated) Coalition for the Preservation of the Jerusalem Hills has proven that there is ample room for the necessary development within the city’s boundaries for the foreseeable future. SPNI and the Coalition are in the process of collecting objections from various environmental and public health organizations, to present to the Planning Commission, which will be taking objections until July 20, 2004. More than 10,000 objections have been submitted.
These projects will wreak environmental damage upon the heart of the Judean Hills, one of the most important green lungs in Israel. Effects would include:
- Depletion and contamination of groundwater supplies from impermeable surfaces, increased pumping, and pollutants such as gas stations
- Dramatic reduction in natural recreation areas for residents of Jerusalem and central Israel, where the majority of the Israeli population resides
- Damage to a unique ecosystem and habitat for a range of endangered species
- Impact on the panoramic views, historic sites, nature reserves, national gardens
Looking out for Jerusalem’s future:
- Expanding this far westward will effectively create a new city, which will draw residents away from central Jerusalem, further weakening the core of the city
- Diverts municipal funds, which are necessary to refurbish and revitalize central Jerusalem, to yet another upscale suburb
The Coalition is urging Jerusalem to put an end to the migration of its residents westward, and concentrate on investing in the city itself, encouraging small and big business, helping to create jobs, and renovating run-down and low-income areas. The inner city has been long neglected and the green lungs beyond the city boundaries must be preserved. The Jerusalem Hills provide a green corridor between Israel’s highways and urban development. They also provide us with a reminder of the biblical landscape and a vision of the history of the Jewish people in Jerusalem.