A group of Modi’in residents have banded together to protest a prospective
housing project on their botanical oasis of Titora Hill, ahead of a decisive
district housing committee meeting on Monday.
The residents launched a
petition on the website Atzuma on Sunday, calling for supporters to write
letters to Mayor Haim Bibas, in support of a municipal plan to transform the
area into a protected archeological site, rather than a 775- unit housing
complex. Possibly inhabited since the Chalcolithic period between 4,000 and
3,150 BCE, Mount Titora may be the home of ancient Modi’in, where the Hashmonaim
rebellion against King Antiochus took place in about 165 BCE, the petition
explains. Meanwhile, in addition to the archeological remains from Byzantine
through British occupation periods that pepper the site, its lands are filled
with more than 80 types of wildflowers and over 180 ancient water cisterns,
according to residents.
“Titora is very important to the people of
Modi’in and should be of national importance,” said Rimonah Traub, the resident
who initiated the petition. “This has been a long and protracted struggle and is
now an imminent threat, as the building contractors usually win.”
Kate Berkowitz Stern, Titora represents an essentially undisturbed “oasis”
within a city that strives to be “modern and progressive.
“I love to take
my kids there for a few reasons: First of all, it’s so close – literally in
town,” Berkowitz Stern told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s an opportunity to get out
into the sunshine and to have a [hike] but requires zero preparation. Homework’s
done and it’s a nice day? Take a water bottle and let’s go.”
Titora is small, only the size of a few city blocks, she also described the site
as a “manageable” place where she can allow her children to run freely without
risking getting lost in the thick of a forest.
“Third, I think it’s an
amazing mashup of Israel in microcosm,” Berkowitz Stern said. “There are pottery
shards and water cisterns, you can see the Jerusalem hills, you have seasonal
flowers that come and go every year.”
Having moved to Israel herself in
2009 from Riverdale, New York, when her children were of kindergarten age,
Berkowitz Stern said she appreciates how so many of the flowers that adorn
Titora show up in the children’s song “Come to Life,” which she and her family
continue to sing.
There are so many other spaces in Modi’in – some of
which seem easier to handle, topographically speaking – that are slated for
development in the future, so it seems a shame that this relatively small area
can’t be left in peace.” she added.
For another resident, Debbie
Zimelman, Titora is a natural space within five minutes walking distance of her
home, covered in wildflowers and archeological remains. Mountain biking groups,
people walking their dogs and children constantly populate the area, she
“You can see half of Israel from the top – especially when you
climb the remains of the castle,” Zimelman said.
Nearly two-thirds of the
original Titora has already been built upon, and what remains must be preserved
in its natural state, according to another resident, Marion Stone. Despite the
fact that more than a decade ago, the then-mayor of Modi’in vowed to turn the
hill into an archeological park, two mayors later this promise still has not
been fulfilled, Stone stressed.
While she acknowledged that Bibas and his
staff support the preservation of Titora in theory, she also noted that “action,
or rather non-action, seems to speak louder than words.
remains today of the ecological corridor that once existed in this area,” Stone
said. “It is a place of nature in the city, enjoyed by many, not only locals,
but also for people all over the country.”
In response to the petition,
the Modi’in-Maccabim- Re’ut Municipality stressed that there is a consensus
among the residents and city officials that a construction site cannot crop up
on this mountain.
“The discussion scheduled in the district committee is
part of a long process that the city is leading toward statutory changes in the
Mount Titora area for the cancellation of 775 housing units that are planned to
be built there in the city’s original construction plans, and instead, preserve
the area as an archeological heritage park,” a Modi’in spokesman told the
“In the previous discussion Mayor Haim Bibas appeared before the
committee and informed committee members that while he is in office, not a
single housing unit will be built on Mount Titora.”