Huge Housing Project Set for Atarot Airport Area

YERUSHALAYIM -
View of the security fence and the Arab village of Kafer Akeb, as seen from the Atarot industrial zone. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Housing Ministry has revived a plan to build a new neighborhood on the former grounds of the Atarot airport in northern Yerushalayim, and part of the area of the Atarot industrial zone. The neighborhood will contain hundreds of buildings, with 11,000 apartments to be built.

The plan is not a new one; it was proposed years ago, and attempts were made to advance the plan, but were halted because of political considerations. The plan was revived by current Housing Minster Yoav Galant, and the ministry is now preparing a detailed plan, which will be presented in the coming months to the Yerushalayim Building and Planning Council. The plan is backed by all members of the Yerushalayim City Council and by Mayor Moshe Leon.

Atarot is adjacent to several large Arab neighborhoods, and the United States has generally opposed such projects. With the recent change in attitude by the U.S. to Israeli “settlements,” government officials hope that the plan will be able to advance more smoothly this time. The land that the project is to be built on, part of the village of Atarot, was purchased in 1912 by Dr. Arthur Ruppin on behalf of the Hachsharat Hayishuv organization.

The area was occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, and after the Six Day War Israel reopened the old British airfield that had been built in the village. An industrial zone was established there as well, and today thousands of Jews and Arabs work in factories there. The airport ceased operation in 2002 when Arabs shot at it during the second intifada. In 2008, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinian Authority a joint operation deal of the airport, but the PA rejected it, demanding exclusive control over it.