Jerusalem hilltop with deer herd under threat of development

JNF: Mitzpe Naphtoach, near Ramot neighborhood, should remain undeveloped, not be zoned for construction.

The future of the oft-disputed Mitzpe Naphtoach next toJerusalem's Ramot neighborhood is once again set to come up for discussion atthe National Planning and Building Council on Tuesday. At issue is whether toremove it from National Outline Plan 22, which governs forests around thecountry.

The hilltop, which has been at the center of conservationist efforts for years,is home to a wide variety of animal and plant life, including a herd of deer.At the same time, it is zoned for housing, and in the past the Jewish NationalFund has said they would not object to developing it. However, the JNF has nowchanged its position, board of directors member Prof. Alon Tal told TheJerusalem Post Monday. The JNF will tell the council that it now believesMitzpe Naphtoach should remain undeveloped, the veteran environmental activistsaid.
Tal said the original deal was conceived under former mayor Ehud Olmert tocreate a metropolitan park in another area of the city, in exchange for turningMitzpe Naphtoach into a housing development.
The Jerusalem Municipality would first like to see what the JNF's position isand would perhaps like to see the hilltop intelligently developed, deputy mayorfor environment and planning Naomi Tsur told the Post Monday night.
“It’s a very complicated issue. On the one hand, it’s clearly a wooded areawith a great deal of wildlife. On the other hand, by excluding it fromdevelopment plans, the city is reducing its building reserves, and therefore itmay be that young couples won’t have affordable housing anywhere in the city.In addition, if Mitzpe Naphtoach is not developed, then it may encourage urbansprawl in the future, which is certainly not sustainable,” she said.
She said that she had asked the JNF to reexamine its plans to determine whetherthey had used the five percent that can be rezoned for development elsewhere inthe city.
“One possibility would be to intelligently develop the area to preserve it andbuild housing. Housing could perhaps be built closer to Ramot along the edge,”she added.
Local residents who formed environmental group Ramot for the Environment havebeen campaigning to keep the hilltop pristine for years. They have sent letterstwice to the national council, asking that it desist from discussing NationalOutline Plan 22 until all the development plans have been completed.