Mixed reactions to plan for new e. J'lem homes

Mixed reactions to plan to build 104 new Jewish housing units in Ras al-Amud.

east jerusalem 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
east jerusalem 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
News that the Jerusalem Municipality was reviewing plans for the construction of 104 housing units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud was met with mixed reaction by residents there on Sunday, as the streets of the predominately Palestinian neighborhood were quiet due to the onset of Ramadan. The new project, which is planned to be connected with the existing Ma'aleh Zeitim residential bloc in the neighborhood, will be called Ma'aleh David, and is slated to become home to some 200 families, making it the largest concentration of Jewish residence in an Arab part of east Jerusalem. The plans are expected to be approved by the municipality, as the area is zoned for housing and there is no dispute over the ownership of the property. However, a city spokesman said on Sunday: "The plan is being considered by the appropriate teams, and has not yet been approved for advancement because it does not correspond with the city planning policy for that area." But Ir Amim, a group which advocates for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem, claims that the municipality is pushing the plan forward and intends to bring it before the city's Construction and Planning Committee soon. The building site was previously home to the Judea and Samaria police headquarters, which has since moved to a new building in Area E-1, and empty area in Ma'aleh Adumim, just east of Jerusalem. After the police moved, control of the area was transferred to the Bukharan Community Committee, which has owned the property since before 1948. On Sunday, residents told The Jerusalem Post that they were not upset with the new housing plans, as Jews had been living in Ras al-Amud for some time now, and problems between the two communities were uncommon. "I don't think it will be an issue," said Niad, who then spoke with a friend in Arabic inside a convenience store. "I'm new here, but he said he thinks it will be fine because Jews have already been living in the neighborhood without incident for a while now," Niad continued, pointing to his friend. In another store down the street, Rami, who was working the counter as his father looked on, said he too felt that there wouldn't be a problem with more Jews moving into the neighborhood. "At first when they came [to Ma'aleh Hazetim], we were somewhat wary," Rami said. "But slowly we got used to them, and they got used to us. Now it's fine, there are no problems. Their kids even run by the store without any worries. They walk around without security guards." But a few doors down, an older man who sat in his shop reading the newspaper disagreed with that sentiment, saying, "Of course it's a problem! They're trying to take over our neighborhood." The man, who didn't want his name used, said the Jewish families living in Ma'aleh Zeitim never came to his store, and never interacted with the Arab residents. "The only time we see them is when they're driving in and out," he said. "Otherwise, they live behind their gates and their doors." "It's a big problem," said another young man, Marwan, who was waiting for a ride to work. "I think a lot of people in the neighborhood feel like they're just coming in to the neighborhood, more and more. And that this news came during Ramadan, I think people will be even more upset about it." Nonetheless, Marwan said there was little that could be done to stop the project from progressing, if the municipality were to approve it. According to the plan, seven four and five story structures will be erected, which will include the 104 housing units, and a swimming pool, library, synagogue, kindergartens and a mikve ritual bath. A footbridge will also be built to connect the new project with the existing Ma'aleh Zeitim Alef and Bet residential projects on the other side of the road. That project is currently home to 51 families and in its second phase of development, which will add another 66 housing units. When the two neighborhoods are completed and linked, more than 1,000 Jewish residents will be situated in Ras al-Amud, which is home to 14,000 Palestinians and overlooks the Old City and the Mount of Olives Cemetery, where Jewish figures including the prophet Zechariah and prime minister Menachem Begin are buried.