The state and residents of Beit Safafa fought their final battle on Sunday
before the Supreme Court over the future of a planned road to go through the
east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood.
Residents say the 1.8 kilometer highway
will cut their neighborhood into sections.
The battle has gone on for
years with the state periodically making partial compromises toward the wishes
of the residents, but never enough to gain the residents’
Residents of Beit Safafa, located in southeast Jerusalem
near Gilo, oppose the extension of the Begin Highway towards the Tunnel Road
that leads to Gush Etzion because the highway cuts through the middle of their
neighborhood and slices it into multiple sections.
The state wants the
highway extension to improve overall travel within the city, which it says will
also pay large economic dividends.
In February, the Jerusalem District
Court ruled in favor of the state to continue building the road. The last resort
of the residents to block the project was their appeal to the Supreme
Reflecting that reality, Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis
said that residents narrow their objections to a few specific items which the
state might be able to address.
The residents hammered away at two main
points. The first was that there needed to be much more extensive overpasses to
enable them to travel easily within the neighborhood without getting blocked by
the new highway extension.
The second was that there needed to be much
more extensive walls separating the highway from the areas it crossed through,
since in some areas it is set to run within three meters or less of residents’
The state said that it had already agreed to 180 meters of walls
plus some overpasses to answer the residents’ objections.
It added that
the residents’ requests for additional walling and overpasses was simply not
physically manageable given the layout of the neighborhood and the road, and
that the residents’ maximum requests would costs over an additional NIS 100
Both sides put forth expert reports claiming, alternately, the
feasibility of additional walling and overpasses and disparaging the other
side’s expert as either not having the correct expertise, looking at the wrong
part of the road in his decision, or having a general bias.
also returned to their point before the district court, claiming that the plan
had not gone through the proper approval process.
Responding, the state
said that a 1990 master plan for the area laid the basis for the highway, an
argument accepted by the district court.
The district court had ruled
that the residents were aware of the plan. “Not only did the residents
understand the nature of the planned road and the period for filing oppositions
to the plan, but they also cooperated fully in the licensing process over their
years and their opinions were considered,” said the court.
court had continued, “The result of this is that a significant part of their
requests were accepted, including allocating many resources that were not
planned amounting to tens of millions.”
The Supreme Court did not rule or
announce a date for rendering its decision.
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