Jerusalem Hills in Danger (Again)

A view of Jerusalem's Old City (Photo: Dov Greenblat)

The Jerusalem Hills, and their forests, are again under threat. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is once more taking the lead in the campaign to preserve this unique habitat.

With demand growing for more housing for Israel's capital, 25,000 new housing units, in eight projects, has been planned for the forested hills west of Jerusalem. SPNI is working with local municipalities, regional councils and other environmental organizations to prevent these plans from going ahead which would cause catastrophic damage to this beautiful region.

The proposed projects would encompass 18,000 dunams (4,447 acres) in the hills west of Jerusalem, some of which have recently been designated as nature reserves and includes the area where the Safdie plan would have been built. The area is a unique public asset of value for its natural significance as well as its historical heritage. The Jerusalem Hills, include forested lands and rich ecosystems that provide habitats for a variety of animals, trees and plants, and provide the natural services necessary for the health of the city of Jerusalem and other urban centers. Destroying these open spaces, that provide recreational and leisure areas, will diminish the quality of life in the region.

Jerusalem Hills (Photo: Dov Greenblat)SPNI held a press conference on Tuesday, February 24, officially launching our campaign against the construction projects. The press conference was the first stage of SPNI's campaign against the projects, officially bringing information about the plans and the campaign to the attention of the media and the public. At the press conference, we presented a report proving that the city of Jerusalem has sufficient land reserves within the city to meet demand, and that there is no need to destroy the Jerusalem forest.

SPNI is also working to ensure that the projects are not fast tracked through a special committee which would bypass national master plan stipulations and other regulations. Bypassing local committees and regional planning boards excludes the public and elected representatives from the planning process and eliminates the public's ability to influence the outcome. The campaign will focus its resources on stopping the three largest projects. 

In the coming months the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel will produce a report assessing how Jerusalem has been developed since the defeat of the Safdie plan. The report will be presented in a public conference later this year. The campaign will also work to inform and involve the public in the process, which contributed to the success of the campaign against the Safdie plan. With your support and involvement we will preserve the Jerusalem Hills for generations to come.

 

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