This week in Jerusalem: Building boom

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 HOMELESS HORSES in Gilo? (Illustrative) (photo credit: YAHAV GAMLIEL/FLASH90)
HOMELESS HORSES in Gilo? (Illustrative)
(photo credit: YAHAV GAMLIEL/FLASH90)

Building boom 

The Jerusalem District Committee has decided to promote another 1,500 new housing units in three neighborhoods – Rassco, Kiryat Yovel, and Gonenim, in high rises of 15 to 30 floors. 

In the Rassco neighborhood, the urban renewal plan includes the construction of two 18-story buildings with 114 housing units, including small apartments of up to 50 square meters, and commercial space on the ground floor. The project is located next to the approved route of the Green Line of the light rail on Herzog Street, close to the future station near the Jacob’s Ladder sculpture. The plan includes an expansion of sidewalks and the construction of public elevators that will replace the existing stairs, allowing access to Herzog Street and convenient use of the light rail. 

In the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, an urban renewal plan on Stern Street was approved for a 30-story apartment building with 160 housing units, 32 of them small apartments of up to 55 square meters, commercial space on the ground floor, and a kindergarten, a synagogue, and a club. Another plan approved in Kiryat Yovel on Guatemala Street includes the construction of two 30-story buildings, with 320 housing units (64 of them allocated for small apartments of up to 85 sq. m.). 

In the Gonenim neighborhood, an urban renewal plan was approved for four towers of 15 to 30 floors with 660 housing units, with 132 small apartments of up to 85 sq. m. The plan includes open public spaces, commercial space on the ground floor, daycare centers, kindergartens, and synagogues. A complex between Bar Yohai and San Martin streets has been approved, with two towers of eight to 30 floors that include 220 housing units, with 44 small apartments of up to 85 sq. m. 

Gonenim, once known for poverty and crime and remembered for its residents’ protest due to its poor conditions, is undergoing a construction boom, including in the education field, with an additional 15 classrooms added to the Ilanot special education elementary school, as well as three additional classrooms for pre-school. Eighteen additional classrooms will be built in 2024 in the Gonenim Elementary School, and another 24 in 2025. By August 2025, the Orthodox Givat Gonen Boys Elementary School will get an additional nine classrooms, and the Orthodox Givat Gonen Girls Elementary School will see an increase of 16 classrooms.

 MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION site off Jaffa Road, not far from the city entrance (and opposite where ‘Jerusalem Post’ staff work amid the cacophany). (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION site off Jaffa Road, not far from the city entrance (and opposite where ‘Jerusalem Post’ staff work amid the cacophany). (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A complex situation 

A plan to transform the complex on Yirmiyahu and Aholiav streets in Romema, which currently includes industrial and craft businesses in very poor structural conditions, was rejected last week by the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee. The plan, submitted and recommended by the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee, was rejected because that building is a remnant of a traditional rural residence from the historic nearby village of Lifta and should be preserved. The district committee requested that it be integrated into the construction and development of the area, together with access to a public park that will be established in the complex. In addition, the district committee decided, contrary to the municipality’s recommendation, that the number of housing units in the complex be reduced to 320, and the requested height of the building be lowered from a suggested 15 to 20 floors, to a maximum of 14 floors in four buildings in order to properly respond to the needs of the neighborhood – and in accordance with the principles of the master plan. 

And finally, the district committee decided to cancel a plan to construct an apartment building in order to increase the availability of open space for public areas, such as a park and a school.

Meanwhile, in east Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Local Planning Committee scheduled a discussion on the New Talpiot Hill plan at the Jerusalem District Planning Committee for this week to approve several building permits for construction in Givat Hamatos alongside development plans for eastern Jerusalem. This includes Kidmat Zion, Nof Zahav, Pisgat Ze’ev, and Ramot A and B, and Um Lysoun, to build new neighborhoods and to expand existing ones. The New Talpiot Hill plan calls for 3,500 housing units and 1,300 hotel rooms on the eastern slopes of Givat Hamatos – and has been deposed for public objections – on a plot of owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. In 2009, the church sold some of the land in the area to an Israeli company. The plan includes building five synagogues and two mikva’ot (ritual baths). 

The municipality also approved four building permits for the construction of 900 housing currently pending approval by the District Committee. Interestingly, the tender winners were announced in January 2021 just hours before the inauguration of US President Joe Biden. Despite being in the east part of the city, it became the first new neighborhood built beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem in over two decades. 

Meanwhile, the Israeli General Custodian is advancing a plan for the construction of a large Jewish neighborhood in Um Lysoun, a small Palestinian neighborhood sandwiched between Sur Baher and Jabal Mukabber, with 450 housing units. 

Hold our horses

As of next week, some 20 horses on Ronen Bakhori’s farm in Gilo will be left without a roof over their heads. This follows on the heels of the Land Enforcement Authority at the Finance Ministry’s decision to dismantle the tin roofs that protect the animals from the elements. Bakhori, a Gilo resident, is receiving support from the municipality, but the problem has not yet been resolved. Bakhori established the horse farm during COVID as a therapeutic center for teenage school-dropouts. When he took his dog out for walks during the pandemic and saw teenagers sitting idly, drinking alcohol, and engaging in bad behavior, he decided to open a horse farm to help them. 

He started with one horse. When he witnessed the youngsters’ enthusiasm, he began to acquire more horses. The Jerusalem Municipality has become a full partner in the whole process, says Bakhori, adding that the farm runs Education Administration programs through the Youth Promotion Department at the municipality.

No school today

The parents of 90 mamlachti dati (the Orthodox branch of the state educational stream) kindergarten-age children in Givat Hamivtar have recently discovered that the municipality is only offering them places at an institution that is far from their neighborhood. The municipality had informed the parents that it invests much effort and determination in finding suitable properties, yet less than two months before the start of the school year, these children may be left without an educational framework. They need the allocation of a building in their neighborhood. This is a network of kindergartens from the state-Orthodox stream that uses the Montessori method and teaches the pre-schoolers in Hebrew and English. 

In recent years, the kindergartens operated in rented quarters in Givat Hamivtar, but when the lease expired no suitable building was found to replace them. Belonging to the modern ultra-Orthodox current, most of whom are new immigrants from the US, these families fall through the cracks. The secular public activists have no interest in helping a kindergarten that is defined as ultra-Orthodox, while ultra-Orthodox politicians turn a cold shoulder to the Orthodox current that encourages core studies, enlistment in the army, and integration into the labor market.

Morality in the holy city

The police raided six apartments in Jerusalem that were being used for prostitution and human trafficking, in which at least 10 women operated sex-for-pay services. The husband and wife team who operated the place were arrested on suspicion of pimping and luring the women into prostitution. According to police findings, some of the women are refugees from Europe (mainly Ukraine). The police issued three fines totaling thousands of shekels to consumers of prostitution caught in the apartments, in accordance with the law that forbids the use of paid sexual services.

Challenge Cup

Jerusalem will host the Challenge Cup international competition in artistic gymnastics in June 2024. The competition will take place one month before the opening of the Olympic Games in Paris after the Israeli Union received approval from the International Union. The competition will take place at the Pais Arena and will be open to the public. Mayor Moshe Lion said that Jerusalem is privileged to host such an international sports competition. Avi Sagi, chairman of the Gymnastics Association, invites Israelis to come and experience this spectacular event and cheer on the Israeli team, adding that he hopes that the Sports Ministry will provide proper support to meet the required high standards.

A bridge not too far

A new 202-meter suspension bridge that connects the Valley of Hinnom to Mount Zion was inaugurated on Sunday. The cost of the bridge was NIS 20 million, but access is free. The bridge is located near the agricultural farm in Gai Ben Hinnom, which carries out ancient agricultural activities: olives picking, and wine and honey making. Located near the City of David National Park, the auto-food complex that is active until the end of August, the First Station complex, and the Sultan’s Pool, it will become a major tourist attraction in the capital. 

The project was established with funding from the Jerusalem and Israel Tradition Ministry, the Tourism Ministry, and the Jerusalem Municipality – and was carried out by the Jerusalem Development Authority and Moriah Company. The bridge is open every day from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and is intended for pedestrians only (children up to age 14 must be accompanied by an adult). ❖