Controversial Housing Plan Gets Underway in Yerushalayim

View of trees in the Yerushalayim hills. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Yerushalayim District Building Council gave its final approval to the construction of 5,000 housing units in a currently forested area west of Yerushalayim. The long-debated Reches Yerushalayim project will be set on 840 dunams of land, next to the Kiryat Menachem neighborhood and the Ora-Massuah road.

The decision came after years of protest and opposition by various groups, including environmental groups who claim that the project will destroy the delicate ecosystem in the area. The project is the first stage of what could turn into a project of over 40,000 housing units. The area in question is one of the last large parcels of land in Yerushalayim, and advocates of the project say it is necessary in order to ensure a supply of homes for young couples.

The plans will require contractors to do their best to retain the forest-like conditions in the area outside the construction zone, and will include parks, walking paths and bike trails. Within the zone are located several natural springs, and these will be protected as well. Construction of a light rail line to ensure commuting to the rest of the city will take place with construction of the homes.

Opponents of the plan say that the final word is not yet in; they have appealed for a change in the plans to the High Court. “The planning council hurried to approve the plan before the issue came to the court, and this is disrespectful to the judicial process,” said attorneys for opposition groups. “If the court turns down our petition, we will appeal to the National Planning Board to stop the project,” they added.