Jerusalem mayoral candidate Nir Barkat toured Jewish and state-owned lands last Friday in an area between French Hill and the Arab neighborhood of Anata, promising that "a new Jewish neighborhood will be established that will provide a solution to the housing needs of students and the city's younger generation." Those involved in the planning of the new neighborhood, which will be called Sha'ar Hamizrach (Gate of the East), said Barkat's statement was significant. "This is an important statement by a leading contender for Jerusalem's mayoralty," said Aryeh King, an initiator of the Sha'ar Hamizrach enterprise and manager of the unofficial Israel Lands Fund. He added that preliminary examination showed that the land in question could hold up to 2,000 housing units. Barkat was touring the area with King and David Be'eri, manager of the Elad Organization and one of the initiators of the City of David archaeological digs. The Elad Organization was previously committed to strengthening the Jewish presence in areas considered part of biblical Jerusalem, but is now changing its focus to concentrate on establishing a new Jewish neighborhood. During the tour, Barkat promised to accelerate planning to build Sha'ar Hamizrach and assessed that in light of French Hill residents' desire to make the new neighborhood a focal point for the city's younger generation and with the cooperation of the Student Union, "Sha'ar Hamizrach can be an excellent solution for young Israelis." Barkat called "on the Student Union to lend a shoulder to the neighborhood's entrepreneurs in order to advance the realization of the new Jewish neighborhood." Barkat explained that establishing the neighborhood would have strategic importance for the future of Jerusalem by connecting the E-1 area and Ma'aleh Adumim to the city. Barkat, King and Be'eri also met with representatives of Hashalom neighborhood and the Shuafat refugee camp. The representatives protested the municipality's failure to supply services, including road improvements, sewage treatment, public cleaning and fixing infrastructure problems. The group also asked to be more involved in the municipal process. Barkat vowed to expand the representation of Arab residents and to raise the level of municipal services. In the past the mayoral candidate was affiliated with Kadima, but vocally distanced himself from the party when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised the notion that in the future parts of Jerusalem might be ceded to the Palestinians. Barkat was recently endorsed by Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu.

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