For new east J'lem homeowners, Nof Zion is a dream come true

Scores of Jewish families are slated to move next month into the new housing project.

nof zion 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
nof zion 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
Scores of Jewish families, including a group of American Jews from Miami, are slated to move next month into a new housing project in east Jerusalem that straddles an Arab neighborhood. The luxury complex is one of several Jewish housing projects being built in predominantly Arab sections of Jerusalem over the objection of the US administration, which has demanded that Israel freeze all such construction. The new housing complex, Nof Zion (Zion View), which borders the sprawling east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber and the city's lush promenade alongside Armon Hanatziv, is being built by a group of Israeli entrepreneurs on privately-owned Jewish land. The first stage of the upscale building project, with sprawling vistas of the Old City and the Temple Mount, includes 91 three-to-five-room apartments, 70 of which have already been sold, said Rinat Sylvester of L.R. Properties, which is marketing the project. About 20 units were sold in the past two weeks, while contracts for another 10-20 apartments are currently being hammered out, Sylvester said Tuesday. About a dozen families have already moved in, with scores more expected to take up residency next month. "We came, we fell in love and we bought in the project," said Motti Mintzer, 62, formerly of the West Bank settlement of Elkana, and one of the first residents to move in last year. "It's better than what we thought." Mintzer, who still works in Tel Aviv but spends most of the week in the apartment, said he was not concerned about the proximity to Arab neighborhoods. "Every place in Israel is close to Arabs," he noted. "We live in the Middle East." Mintzer said he frequented the local Arab kiosk, and that there had been no problems between the Jewish and Arab neighbors. "At first glance, the project does seem close to the Arabs, there's no denying that," said Shai Cooperman, 35, of Ramat Beit Shemesh, who bought a five-room flat last month and is planning to move in with his family next month right after Tisha Be'Av. "I had a certain fear about that, but I don't see any reason why that should be a problem, because there is security and soon the site will be populated," he added. The father of four said he would not have his kids walk to the local kiosk alone, but noted that they didn't do that in Ramat Beit Shemesh either. "I've always dreamed of living in Jerusalem, and this is the fulfillment of this dream," Cooperman said. "It's the first time in 10 years that I was able to put a deposit down after two hours at the site." The private construction project, which included infrastructure work much-needed in the area, such as electricity, sewage and streets, got under way after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from local Arab residents who had claimed some of the land in question belonged to them. The apartments, which run from $400,000 to $580,000, have been purchased by Israelis as well as a group of American Jews, some of whom are renting out their flats from NIS 3,500 a month. "It's a mosaic of the people of Israel," Sylvester said. The new neighborhood will eventually include 480 apartments, including 80 swanky flats that will be attached to a luxury boutique hotel, two synagogues, a kindergarten, a community center, a country club and a small shopping mall. A small police station and the local UN headquarters are just up the block. The private construction project will be carried out in three phases. Sylvester said the marketing of the second phase was set to get under way next month, and construction was scheduled to begin by the end of the year. Israel differentiates between building in Jerusalem and the West Bank, but the international community does not distinguish between construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and view both as settlement activity. According to a 2000 peace proposal put forward by former US president Bill Clinton and rejected by late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the city's Jewish neighborhoods would remain under Israeli control, while Arab sections would become part of the Palestinian state.