(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The National Planning and Building Council voted by a large majority Tuesday evening to remove Mitzpe Naphtoach from National Outline Plan 22, which governs protected forest land around the country.
Mitzpe Naphtoach, a hilltop adjacent to the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem, is home to a variety of flora and fauna including the largest herd of deer in the Jerusalem area. Local residents have been trying for years to have the hilltop declared a park to prevent housing developments from encroaching.
However, the hilltop has been slated for development as part of a 10-year-old deal between JNF/KKL and the Jerusalem municipality dating to when Ehud Olmert was mayor. In return for declaring Mitzpe Naphtoach open for development, an area close to the city’s entrance would be put aside for a metropolitan park. The Council felt that the deal sufficiently balanced the need for development and for open spaces and voted accordingly.
KKL representatives at the meeting apparently upheld the original deal and did not insist that Mitzpe Naphtoach remain a protected forest area. Representatives of the Jerusalem municipality were unable to attend the meeting.
However, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Planning Naomi Tsur told The Jerusalem Post
ahead of the meeting that Mitzpe Naphtoach represented a conflict between her two portfolios. On the one hand, it was clearly an important spot for biodiversity, she said, but on the other hand, it is part of Jerusalem’s building reserve for affordable housing.
Prior to the meeting, she expressed hope that the hilltop could be
developed intelligently to balance both needs as much as possible.
Ramot for the Environment vowed not to give up fighting for Mitzpe Naphtoach and said they were considering their options.
“We fought for 10 years and we will continue fighting,” a representative told the Post