Samar sand dunes protest_311.
(photo credit: Dov Greenblatt, Society for the Protection of Natu)
Tensions rose again in east Jerusalem over a national park called the Slopes of
Mount Scopus, which is in the intermediate stages of the approval process, after
three bulldozers began clearing land on Monday morning.
activists were taken for questioning by police after they tried to stop the
bulldozers from working. They were later released.
Dozens of locals
gathered at the work site to observe the bulldozers, but there was no
Three weeks ago, a number of residents were arrested
after they threw stones at bulldozers.
At the time, the municipality said
that the bulldozers were clearing away trash left from construction. There has
been no work in the area since then.
A Jerusalem Municipality spokesman
said the work on Monday was routine and intended to preserve the green open
area, and to “fight against criminals who throw trash and private individuals
who try to appropriate the land.”
The bulldozers were removing part of a
road that lead to illegally constructed homes.
Lawyer Sami Ershied filed
two petitions with the Jerusalem District Court on Monday afternoon on behalf of
residents in Isawiya and ATur, which halted the work around 2 o’clock. Ershied
said the city lacked the necessary permits to carry out the work, and did not
notify the affected families before beginning the work.
court froze the work and will hear the case on Tuesday morning.
make the area a national park still require approval from the Interior Ministry
and the Environmental Protection Ministry, a process that could take at least
six months. Activists and residents say the city should not be working on the
site until its status has been decided by the ministries.
municipality promised the park would be farther away; they said our land was
OK,” said Muhammad Casman, an A-Tur resident whose apartment abuts the
“We’re not allowed to even look at the plans... We’re standing
here, but we don’t even know if this is going to be the national park or not. In
the morning we woke up and we just heard them starting to work.”
73.2-hectare (181-acre) park is part of a larger project from the Jerusalem
Development Authority to create a network of green spaces around the Old City to
preserve the few open spaces that are left in the crowded area.
authority says that creating a national park is the best way to protect against
illegal building, which could destroy the last green area in east
But residents in A-Tur and Isawiya say the park encroaches on
their land and will stop them from expanding their congested neighborhoods.