Cornerstone laid for phase II of Nof Zion despite American pressure

Cornerstone laid for pha

On the heels of criticism from the Obama administration over government plans to build 900 new housing units in the southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, over 100 people gathered outside the budding community of Nof Zion, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber on Wednesday afternoon, to lay the cornerstone for the second stage of construction at the site and to weigh the option of purchasing apartments there. The housing community, which is part of a private construction project built on privately-owned land, is already home to dozens of families - many of them Anglos - who began moving into the brand-new apartments over the summer. Construction for the second stage of Nof Zion is expected to commence within the next six months and will conclude in 2.5 years, adding 125 new apartments to the community. Wednesday's ceremony was also the final leg of a tour comprised of some 50 American Jews who visited Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria over the past four days with New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. One of the tour's participants, Chaim (Hy) Gershon, from Manhattan, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he was proud to have taken part in the tour and thrilled to be at Wednesday's ceremony at Nof Zion. "I'm sorry it's over," Gershon said. "It's been a fantastic tour, and I think that what we're expressing here today is a sentiment many Jews feel inside - a feeling of support and pride for Israel." As he spoke, a handful of Peace Now protesters who had assembled near the cornerstone laying ceremony could be heard yelling slogans at the crowd. "Jerusalem will be divided!" One of them yelled through a bullhorn. "One day this will be the capital of Palestine!" "I feel sorry for them," Gershon said, motioning to the protesters. "They're lost, they're not connected to their people. Honestly, I thought Peace Now would have lost its relevance by now. "In my building in New York, we have people from all over the world living there," he continued. But it's still America. Yet here for some reason, they want to segregate us and tell us where we can or cannot live." As the crowd gathered around the new cornerstone site, a number of key figures taking part in the ceremony addressed the large number of reporters and camera crews that had arrived. "I have a message for President Obama," said MK Danny Danon (Likud). "Take your hands off Jerusalem! Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people, and we have every right to live and raise our children here. "Obama is actually strengthening [Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu," Danon added. Because all of the parties are united when it comes to the issue of building rights in Jerusalem." Hikind, who also addressed the media during the event, said that Obama's vision for peace in the region had failed, and that the US president's demands for a halt to Israeli construction over the Green Line had now become Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' condition for restarting peace negotiations. "Many of [Obama's] predecessors also wanted and advanced peace," Hikind, himself a member of the Democratic party, told reporters. "But [Obama] is the only one stopping it. "The construction here is not an impediment to peace," he added, before picking up a shovel and personally participating in laying the cornerstone for the second phase of Nof Zion's construction. Others were equally adamant in their sentiments. "This tour has opened my eyes to things I never knew existed," said Robin Benoff, from Teaneck, New Jersey. "I never knew there was such a need to bring people to live in Judea and Samaria, and that if we don't bring them, we could lose it." Then, tears welling up in her eyes, Benoff added, "You have to put your money where your mouth is."