A view of the Jerusalem Forest from Yad Vashem..
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Amid controversial plans to construct a sprawling IDF military college in the Jerusalem Forest, a consortium of environmentalist groups issued a legal letter on Monday warning the chief of staff that the project must be withdrawn.
The proposed 42,000-square-meter college was initially planned for Mount Scopus, but the project was abruptly shelved, purportedly due to US pressure because it would be beyond the Green Line. When alternative plans were announced last month by the Jerusalem Municipality and IDF to build in the Jerusalem Forest, environmentalists and community leaders throughout the capital denounced the project as destructive to the city’s limited nature reserve.
In a stern letter to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, attorney Joseph Havilio said on behalf of a Jerusalem Forest preservation group representing over 300,000 residents that the undertaking was unacceptable and must be stopped.
“I represent tens of thousands of residents in Kiryat Yovel, Beit Hakerem and Ein Kerem and tens of thousands more people in other neighborhoods of Jerusalem who oppose the plan to transfer the IDF colleges to the Jerusalem Forest,” Havilio wrote.
Noting that the campus would destroy invaluable forest land and a bird observatory, he added that the Keren Kayemeth LeIs - rael-Jewish National Fund, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and other local and international bodies had uniformly demanded the project be stopped.
While the attorney wrote that his clients supported the construction of a military college to enhance the nation’s security, he said that doing so on a nature reserve should not be considered an option. As an alternative site, he suggested an abandoned army base in the Beit Zayit area, just west of the city, or Givat Ram, near the Hebrew University, despite the fact that those locations had been rejected previously.
The National Defense College is currently located at the Glilot junction in Herzliya, next to the IDF’s main intelligence base.