New E. J'lem Jewish homes to be populated soon

Swank new project borders Arab neighborhood which was home to the Mercaz Harav shooter.

nof zion 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
nof zion 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A new Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem that straddles an Arab residential area with sweeping vistas of the Old City and the Temple Mount will be populated this summer. Nof Zion (View of Zion), which borders the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood and the promenade on the edge of Armon Hanatziv, is being built by entrepreneurs on privately owned Jewish land, despite Palestinian and international opposition. The recently completed first stage of the upscale project is made up of 91 three-to-five room apartments, most of which have already been sold, said Yehuda Levy, the head of Tel Aviv's DiGal Investments and Holdings Ltd., which is building the project. The project got under way after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Arab residents who had claimed that that some of the land in question belonged to them, Levy said. The apartments, which run from $400,000-$580,000, have been purchased in about equal numbers by Israelis and Diaspora Jews, in particular Americans, said Rinat Sylvester of L.R. Properties, which is marketing the project. The new neighborhood will eventually comprise 480 apartments, including 80 swanky flats attached to a luxury boutique hotel, an International Sephardic Federation building, two synagogues, a kindergarten, a community center, a country club and a small shopping mall. A police station and the UN local headquarters are just up the block from the project. Construction is to be carried out in three stages, with the builders now awaiting final state approval for the second and third stages, which are meant to be carried out over the next five years. The rows of houses with breathtaking views abut the Arab neighborhood of 12,000 that was home to Ala Abu Dhaim, who killed eight students and wounded nine of their classmates at the city's Zionist Orthodox flagship Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on March 6. The tension in the Arab neighborhood, which was the site of a violent right-wing demonstration following the yeshiva massacre, was still palpable on Thursday in a kiosk just down the block from the new housing project. "Even if the new residents behave well, they are not wanted here," said kiosk owner Hassan Zachika. "I don't want them shopping here, even for more money," he said. The shop owner downplayed the improvement to the neighborhood's infrastructure as a result of the new construction. "Walk 50 meters from here and compare," he said. "The most important thing is that they behave well," added an Arab shopping in the store, who declined to provide his name. "But they are pouring oil on the fire." The builders said politics played no role in the construction of the new neighborhood. "This is a purely commercial project in one of the most beautiful spots in the city," Levy said.