14 housing units for Jewish families approved in e. J'lem

Old police headquarter renovation project was not open to public comment, may be part of large plan with 104 units called Ma'aleh David.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
March 2, 2011 20:55
3 minute read.
Pepe Alalu.

pepe alalu 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The old police headquarters of the Judea and Samaria District, located in the Ras-al Amud neighborhood of southeastern Jerusalem, will be turned into 14 units for Jewish families, after a project received a renovation permit from the municipality last month.

The project is part of a larger planned community called Ma’aleh David, whose plan calls for 104 housing units as well as a swimming pool, synagogue, community center, and library. The entire Ma’aleh David project is in its very early stages, and it will be several years until construction can begin, even if the project passes all of the approval hurdles.

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The 14 units will be located inside the old police headquarters, which police left a few years ago for its new headquarters in E-1 near Ma’aleh Adumim.

This means the units could be approved by a less stringent process that deals with renovations, rather than the multi-year long approval for building plans. For the same reason, the plan was not deposited for public comment, as traditionally happens with new building approvals.

The 14-unit project was first submitted to the municipality in December 2009, and was discussed on October 28, 2010 and February 17, 2011.

The old police building must still undergo inspections from the fire department and engineers before work can start inside the building, though major renovations could begin as soon as four months from now.

Minor renovations to the property that did not require a permit started almost a year ago, in anticipation of the approval.

The land is owned by the Bukharan community’s hekdesh, which initiated the renovation request in 2009.

Before 1948, Jewish communities in the area were organized into hekdeshim, committees in charge of the community’s assets, like the Wakf Islamic trust. The land where the old police headquarters sits was purchased by the Bukharan community from the Ottoman Empire.

After 1967, many hekdeshim when to court to retrieve their land that had been in Jordanian hands, and many, like the Bukharim, won their cases.

Other hekdeshim are involved in various east Jerusalem land conflicts, including the Sephardi hekdesh in Sheikh Jarrah and the Yemenite hekdesh in Silwan.

Left-wing groups condemned the decision as well as the lack of transparency in the approval process.

“The Jerusalem Municipality is once again playing with fire at the service of most extreme right-wing settlers in Jerusalem, and this is being done in the most explosive area of the conflict, just hundreds of meters away from Al-Aksa and the Temple Mount,” said Ir Amim spokeswoman Orly Noy.

Opposition city councilor Yosef Alalu (Meretz) echoed Ir Amim’s criticism, adding that the impoverished neighborhood did not need new apartments.

“A public building needs to stay a public building, especially in this area which has a lack of them,” Alalu said. “The moment I heard police were leaving there, I thought it could be a school. And I don’t think Jews need to go in there, it just brings us problems.”

A municipal spokeswoman said the project was approved after it met all of the conditions put forth by the Local Planning and Building Committee.

Members of the committee were unavailable for comment.

Ateret Cohanim executive director Danny Luria applauded the approval, noting that the apartments would help make the area more secure for visitors to the Mount of Olives cemetery.

Ateret Cohanim is not involved in the Ma’aleh David project, but played a big role in the Ma’aleh Zeitim project located across the road, which was financed by American business mogul Irving Moskowitz.

“Since it’s already a neighborhood, [the apartments] may not even be that cheap,” he said. “It is a wonderful site and a wonderful move that can only add to the beauty of Har Hazeitim [the Mount of Olives].”


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