Beit Safafa 311.
(photo credit: Michael Green)
More than 200 residents of Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa and left-wing activists
demonstrated on Tuesday evening against a planned extension of the Begin Highway
that will run through the neighborhood.
“This is a continuation of the
settlement policy, and we’re not going to pay the price of connecting the
settlements to Tel Aviv,” said 33-year-old Beit Safafa resident Dareen
The highway will provide high-speed access for commuters from
the Gush Etzion settlements to Jerusalem and beyond.
Beit Safafa activist
Duaa Subhi said the highway, which will be six lanes wide at some points, is
located too close to homes for this type of highspeed intercity road. Two houses
are located 3 meters away from the planned road, and more than 25 homes are less
than 20 meters away.
The municipality needs specific permits from
national planning committees to locate highways so close to residential
Additionally, the highway will run straight through the middle
class Arab neighborhood, forcing residents to drive far out of their way to get
to the other side of the neighborhood, and will disrupt daily life, said
Residents also claim that the city did not get the proper permits
for the construction and did not sufficiently notify the residents. Sixteen
residents, including Subhi, petitioned the courts to stop the construction,
which began three months ago.
On February 10, the Jerusalem District
that the municipality’s building plan for the area, designed in
1990, is a valid planning document, and there is a road plan marked for the same
spot where the municipality wants to build the Highway 50/Begin
On Monday, the residents filed a petition with the High Court
of Justice and requested a temporary stop work order while the negotiations
That case will be heard on Thursday.
Mayor Naomi Tsur, who holds the urban planning portfolio, said the residents are
taking advantage of the political situation to turn a local concern into an
“When the residents of Beit Hakerem conducted their
fight over their part of Begin Highway, the international media wasn’t
interested,” she said. “This is simply a residents’ fight against its
municipality for better compensations and better infrastructure, and it’s a
perfectly justifiable fight and part of democracy,” she said.
the municipality is holding ongoing negotiations with the residents despite the
court actions, and has agreed to cover 180 meters of the 1.5-kilometer section
that runs through Beit Safafa. Covering the highway would creating a public park
with areas for cars to cross, which would eliminate noise and pollution from
that section of the highway. The residents have asked for 300 meters of covered
highway, which would provide continuous access to homes and neighborhoods in the
most problematic part of the project.
However, Tsur said 180 meters is
the maximum amount the municipality can offer without resubmitting the plans for
approval, a process which would cost millions of shekels. She stressed that the
Begin Extension is part of a transportation master plan to ease access into and
around the capital, before extending the light rail in the next
Despite the feverish pace of bulldozers, which are progressing
quickly on the highway, residents vowed that they would not give up their
“This highway isn’t connected just to Beit Safafa, it’s a struggle
for Jerusalem and all the Arabs of Jerusalem,” said Kholoud Subhi, Duaa’s
“Show me another place in the country where they’re building a
highway so close to people’s homes,” said Houida, a 40-year-old mother from Beit
Safafa. “You open your door and are on the highway.”