Ma’aleh HaZeitim ceremony 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Hundreds attended a dedication ceremony of the second stage of the Ma’aleh Hazeitim neighborhood on Wednesday night, which celebrated 60 new apartments in the Jewish compound located in the heart of the Arab neighborhood of Ras el-Amud in the capital’s southeast.
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The event was attended by Mayor Nir Barkat, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Eliahu Bakshi-Doron.
About 30 left-wing activists protested the dedication outside of the complex. Two activists laid down in the road to stop guests from arriving, and were taken for questioning by police. One activist made it into the ceremony and interrupted the opening remarks before being escorted out of the complex.
“The ceremony is a beautiful, strong message that gives a strong stamp of approval to what Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] said about Jerusalem yesterday [in his speech to Congress],” said Daniel Luria, executive director of Ateret Cohanim, an organization which oversees other Jewish complexes in predominantly Arab capital neighborhoods such as the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and Silwan. “This ceremony is poetry for Bibi,” he said.
Despite the drums of the activists bouncing off the walls of the courtyard, the complex had a festive air, as the children dodged between members of the international media.
“It’s a nice way to inaugurate the neighborhood,” said Meir, who moved in with his wife and three children three months ago, as the second stage of apartments was finished. “There’s proximity to the Old City, new modern apartments and great community life,” he said.
“[The protest outside] is disturbing,” said his wife, Malka. “This is a neighborhood in Jerusalem like any other one. If [the Arabs] could raise the donations like we did, they could build something like this, nobody’s stopping them from building,” she said.
City Councilor Pepe Alalu (Meretz), who joined the protesters outside, stressed that dedication ceremonies such as this one damaged the peace process, especially because it contradicts the Clinton Parameters, an understanding proposed by the then-US president in 2000 that Jewish areas would stay part of Israel and Arab areas would become part of a future Palestinian state.
“This settlement won’t do anything, it will just make it harder for Jews and Arabs to come to an agreement,” Alahu said. “We’ll get to peace, the question is how much blood will run and how much hate will continue to grow.”
The so-called third stage of Ma’aleh Hazeitim, called Ma’aleh David, is located across the street in the old Judea and Samaria Police building. The building is undergoing internal renovations, meaning they did not need to apply for building permits, and families could move into the new apartments as soon as the end of the year.
The Hamdallah family, Arabs who live close to this area, have been fighting a long legal battle against being evacuated from part of their home in Ras el-Amud that was built illegally. On Thursday, they will argue their case in front of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. If they lose their appeal, Jewish activists may move into part of their house, according to the Ir Amim NGO.
“Jerusalem is, in many ways, a litmus test upon which the seriousness of
the intentions of Israel is tested in relation to the peace process,”
Ir Amim spokeswoman Orly Noy said.
“The provocative behavior of the above-named Knesset members and
government ministers, as well as their ties to right-wing extremists in
Jerusalem, undermines the obligations of the State of Israel to the
political process, and as a result, harms Israel’s international
status,” she said in a statement.
“Eight generations on my family lived on this mountain,” Knesset Speaker
Reuven Rivlin said during the ceremony. He praised the benefactors of
Ma’aleh Hazeitim, Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, through whose financial
support, “the city of Jerusalem is more developed and is closer to the
dream of redemption.”
Ma’aleh Hazeitim is one the largest Jewish complexes in Arab
neighborhoods, with 110 units. The 50 units in the first stage of
apartments were finished nine years ago. The new apartments are selling
for between NIS 1.6 million and NIS 7m. for the two-floor penthouses.