IDF soldiers view Old City of J'lem from Mt. of Olives 37.
(photo credit: Darren Whiteside / Reuters)
The Interior Ministry gave its initial approval for the construction of
facilities for a military college in east Jerusalem on Monday, which will be
located on the Mount of Olives.
The 42,000-square-meter structure of the
National Defense College is planned for an open area between the Beit Orot
Yeshiva and Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, within a few hundred meters
of the Old City and with a commanding view of the Temple Mount.
groups slammed the approval.
“This is a crazy plan to build a military
college in one of the most sensitive areas under dispute,” said Hagit Ofran, who
oversees Peace Now’s Settlement Watch division.
“This will inevitably
harm the status of the State of Israel and the IDF in the world... People
in the world respect our army as part of our sovereignty, but to put this in a
very sensitive area, you’re inviting them to boycott the Israeli
The area was originally earmarked for the new Supreme Court, which
was eventually built in the Government Quarter near downtown
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has touted the college in the past
as a way to attract young, working people to the city.
spokeswoman Efrat Orbach echoed Barkat’s sentiment, adding that the location was
chosen due to its proximity to the Hebrew University, allowing soldiers to take
advantage of university courses during their studies.Click on photo to enlarge
The project will be built
partially above ground and partially below ground. The building “presented
modest and appropriate aspects for the view of the area as well as met the
pragmatic needs of the college,” said Dalit Zilber, the chairwoman of the
Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee under the auspices of the
The National Defense College is currently located at
the Glilot junction in Herzliya, next to the central military intelligence base,
though there has been talk of moving to Jerusalem for the past several
On Monday, the Interior Ministry gave its initial approval to the
project, which will now be open for public opposition before receiving final
approval from the ministry. The approval process could take as little as a year,
but will most likely take a number of years before construction can
A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said that it was decided to move
the National Defense College in order to free up land for housing in the Gush
Dan region, as well as an ideological push to have national institutions located
in Jerusalem and economically depressed areas of the periphery.
college will bring thousands of commanders to Jerusalem and will also provide
hundreds of jobs, she added.
The spokeswoman denied claims that the land
in question is contested, noting that the land had already been earmarked for
some kind of national institution for years and it is all located within the
municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.
The Ir Amim organization pointed out
that the military college is situated in between contested national parks,
creating a swath of Israeli buildings and open areas.
“It’s amazing to
discover that especially in an area that suffers from such a large shortage of
housing and lack of development, the authorities believe it is the right thing
to quickly advance a project to create an army building or national park that
does not benefit the welfare of the residents,” said Yehudit Oppenheimer, the
director of Ir Amim.
The area for the new military college is located on
parts of the Arab neighborhoods of A-Suwane and a- Tur. The area was privately
owned Palestinian land until the Israel Lands Authority seized it in January
1968, according to Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann. The plan to move the
Supreme Court there dates back to 1969.
Seidemann said that the location
for the military college in this area is problematic because the college has
many ties with foreign militaries, who will be wary of the political
implications of the location.
“I have received a number of phone calls
from foreign governments saying, ‘What can you possibly be thinking? You are
engaged in an act of self-ostracism,’” Seidemann said.