The New battle to save Jerusalem’s hills: Status Report

Jerusalem hills under threat again

 

The ongoing fight to save the forested hills west of Jerusalem from ill-advised development picked up steam this fall, with an impressive nature protection campaign in Jerusalem.  The Alliance to Strengthen Jerusalem orchestrated a series of educational events in key nature locations to engage the public on this issue.

 

The Alliance’s group members were joined by volunteers, residents and youth that assisted the campaign by educating the thousands of families, travelers, soldiers and nature lovers on the current threats to Jerusalem hills by developers and the government’s construction plans, while they were enjoying the beautiful views, open air and the forested hills surrounding Israel’s capital. The Alliance is spearheaded by SPNI in partnership with JNF-KKL, Green Course, the local municipalities and other environmental organizations.

 Map of construction plans threatening Jerusalem hills

At Mt Heret SPNI held a guided tour of an abandoned quarry reclaimed over the years by nature becoming a natural habitat for many animals, including birds of prey and waterfowl. There was also an olive harvestingactivity in the groves further down its slopes. SPNI together with the Mevasseret Zion Municipality, the Nature and Parks Authority and with the support of Konrad Adenaur Foundation had previously submitted a plan to transform the quarry into an urban nature and recreation park before the government began promoting its own construction plans. It is hoped that SPNI’s plans will be realized to safeguard the long term future of this place.


The Alliance to Strengthen Jerusalem.Photo:Lior KurielThousands of people hiked through the orchards, streams and ancient Roman ruins of Ein-Kobi. Alliance volunteers presented a ‘discussion zone’ and educational information about the ongoing campaign and the efforts to save the Jerusalem forests.

Another stand was manned in Canada Park which provided a detailed graphic simulation of the planned construction sites, as hundreds joined the olive harvest in the park.


At a memorial event for Menachem Begin, the late former Prime Minister, volunteers circulated encouraging people to sign the coalition’s petition. Begin Park is itself threatened by plans to build a completely new city on the site.

Jerusalem alliance at Begin Park. Photo: Lior Kuriel

The Alliance is building a head of steam to defeat the government’s assorted plans for the Jerusalem Hills. Several thousands have signed our petition. A recent statement by the Housing and Construction Minister, Yoav Galant, gave us more hope as he publicly and unequivocally objected to the construction plans targeting the open spaces around Jerusalem and advocating our position to build new housing units within Jerusalem’s boundaries, as part of a needed process of urban renewal.

 

A recent lively demonstration was held outside government offices where a vote was scheduled to approve these plans. The vote was postponed again due to public pressure – the battle continues …