'Silicon Wadi' hi-tech park approved in east Jerusalem

About 200 Palestinian-owned businesses will be moved to complexes in Issawiya and Umm Tuba.

"Silicon Wadi" hi-tech park planned for Wadi al-Joz neighborhood in east Jerusalem (Credit: Eyecon Productions)
The Jerusalem Local Planning and Construction Committee approved a master plan to develop the Wadi al-Joz area of east Jerusalem last week, including the development of the “Silicon Wadi” hi-tech area, the Jerusalem Municipality announced on Wednesday.
As part of the program, about 200 Palestinian-owned industrial buildings will have their tenants evicted and be demolished. The businesses will be moved to complexes in Isawiya and Umm Tuba in east Jerusalem, according to the municipality.
“The purpose of the program is to maximize the potential of this central area for employment and tourism, through the rebranding of the area, the addition of trade and employment, strengthening tourism, arranging housing and developing traffic routes, with an emphasis on bicycle and walking routes,” said the municipality in a statement.
Wadi al-Joz Street will be turned into an “advanced employment zone” with the aim of creating a hi-tech industrial park in the neighborhood. Some 900 hotel rooms will be built as part of the plan as well.
The area of the plan also includes the opening of a park near the Kidron Valley. The development of the park will begin in about three months and is expected to take two years.
New roads will help ease traffic congestion in the area, and the light rail may also be extended into the neighborhood.
While residential buildings in the area are limited to four floors, employment complexes will be able to reach up to 16 floors.
“This is another step toward the realization of a historic plan in the east of the city,” said Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. “This is a huge message for the Jerusalem economy in general and in the east of the city in particular, in increasing the supply of employment in the hi-tech field.”
“The municipality will take care of bringing the leading companies in the economy and the highest quality people to the east of the city, and will work in full coordination with all relevant parties in the field of planning, employment and training, in order to create a significant revolution with great hope in the east of the city,” added Lion.
The Silicon Wadi project was originally announced in June. At the time, the Jerusalem Municipality called it one of the “most complicated” projects carried out in Jerusalem in the past few decades, with the aim of “bringing about change at both the municipal and national levels.”
The project aims to create about 10,000 quality employment places in east Jerusalem; strengthen trust between the population of east Jerusalem and the municipality and government; employ more east Jerusalem women; and strengthen the status of the Israeli curriculum there as a key to higher education and employment, according to the municipality.
Palestinians expressed outrage when the project was announced in June, as many Palestinian businesses would be affected by the plan.
Kamal Obeidat, chairman of east Jerusalem’s Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called the move a “racist order” to destroy the only Palestinian industrial area in east Jerusalem in order to build Israeli structures, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency. He said that it was made by recommendation of the planning and zoning committee and will demolish car repair shops, restaurants and other facilities.
A spokesperson for the municipality said that business owners in the area had agreed to the plan and would be compensated.