Jerusalem forest 88.
(photo credit: )
On a typical summer weekend it is almost impossible to find a picnic table in the Jerusalem forests without a family or a group of friends sitting around it.
They come mainly from Jerusalem, but also from Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Kiryat Shmona and Toronto. These majestic hills of forests and natural springs, sometimes taken for granted, are one of our most unique retreats, with a special feeling that exists nowhere else on the globe- the air of Jerusalem.
Tomorrow the national committee for planning and building will take a final vote between two options - handing these hills to private hands, as the Safdie plan suggests, or keeping them in the hands of the public and Mother Nature. Highways, thousands of apartments and sewage lines will cause irreversible ecological damage to the Jerusalem hills.
But the loss of the hills is not the only reason we object to this program.
Jerusalem has been weakened in various ways in recent years, and the economically strongest sectors of the population are gradually leaving. Developing the hills west of Jerusalem is an inappropriate diversion of funds that will physically harm the city's unique atmosphere - and the residents themselves.
The trend of emigration from the capital is a cause for national concern. Development of the Jerusalem hills will not bring new residents from the coastal plain, but will lead to a further exodus of middle and upper-class residents. Development of the hills west of Jerusalem will inflict a death blow to the city.
Alternatives exist, according to the experts. Land for construction and development exists within the current municipal perimeters. There is sufficient land to meet the demand for housing. An alternative program planned by architect Uri Bar-Sheshet found that 58,000 housing units can be erected in the city over the next 15 years -without building in the forest.
Instead of saving Jerusalem, we are building an alternative city, while leaving the old one to fade. Once Safdie's plan gets underway, it will be irreversible, and it would be irresponsible to go on with it.