Gilo residents angered by US criticism of building plans
Gilo residents angered b
By ABE SELIG
Residents of Gilo on Wednesday reacted with surprise and anger to news that the US administration was dismayed by a government decision to approve 900 new homes in their neighborhood, questioning the relevance of the criticism while denouncing it unequivocally.
"It's just so ridiculous," said Silva, as she walked outside her home on the neighborhood's Rehov Shabtai Hanegbi.
"Anyone who is opposed to us building in Gilo obviously doesn't know the neighborhood very well. There are more than 40,000 people living here - it could very well be a city within itself. I never even thought that Gilo was up for discussion."
Others reacted with similar surprise, but also frustration at what they said was misguided American policy in an area considered by a wide consensus of Israelis to be just another Jerusalem neighborhood.
"Since when is anyone thinking about giving Gilo away?" asked an elderly man as he waited at a bus stop. "And if we're not giving it away, why on earth can't we build here? Obama is sitting all the way over there in the White House making demands, and really, what does he know about anything?"
Ron, a grocery store owner on Rehov Zecharia, labeled the American criticism "stupid," and said he was shocked to see the question of building rights in his neighborhood thrust into the headlines.
"When I picked up the newspaper today I couldn't believe it," he said. "The location they want to build in isn't even close to any Arab homes, and it has nothing to do with peace negotiations.
"Since when was Gilo on the table?" he asked. "To be honest with you, it's all very upsetting."
"When I first saw the news I was extremely surprised," Gilo Community Council Chairman Moshe Ben-Shushan told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday evening.
"I think we need to invite President Obama to come here and see that Gilo is not two caravans on a hilltop."
Ben-Shushan also said that even left-wing residents of the neighborhood had approached him on Wednesday and expressed anger over the American sentiments.
"They told me that it made them feel as if nothing was off the table; that at this rate, there's going to be nothing left of the Land of Israel," he said.
Ben-Shushan also said that he was satisfied with the government's stance on the matter thus far, but added, "If they were to agree to freezing construction here in Gilo, oy va voy!
"Young people have nowhere to live in Jerusalem," Ben-Shushan added. "They're leaving for the center or for the coastal plain, and frankly, we have to build here immediately, or I'm afraid the housing crisis in the capital will get even worse."
It isn't clear, however, that young people were the ones being targeted by the builders of these planned homes.
Ron, the grocery owner, said he had initially been interested in purchasing one of the apartments, but decided against it - not because of American criticism, but after hearing their price.
"They want NIS 1.86 million for a 5-room apartment," he said. "Who has money for that?"
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