'Parisians didn’t like Eiffel Tower at first either'

J'lem city engineer said at a Knesset Interior Affairs Committee meeting looking to curb the Holyland project.

holyland311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem city engineer Shlomo Eshkol tried to strike an optimistic note on Monday, during a Knesset Interior Affairs Committee meeting to discuss the current status of construction in the Holyland project.
“I suggest that you examine the Holyland question not through spectacles of beauty,” he told the MKs, even though he himself is an architect. “Look at Paris and its symbol, the Eiffel Tower. When it was built, there was a terrible outcry about it also.”
Not everyone in the room, however, was cheered by his somewhat surprising comparison.
“If this is what the Jerusalem city engineer has to say, I am very worried,” said Dov Henin (Hadash).
The committee met to discuss what measures could be taken at this point – most, but not all, of the buildings planned for the neighborhood have already been built.
The MKs did not have much to go on. Deputy Mayor Naomi Tzur informed the committee that the members of the local planning committee were due to meet in the afternoon to carefully examine the current situation and to see what, if anything, could be done.
Tzur said there were three towers still to be built in the project, twoof them 20 stories high and another, taller, structure. All of them hadpermits.
“We are trying to look into the smallest details to see if we can prevent them from being built,” she added.
Eshkol later added that archaeological excavations were currentlytaking place on the sites of the three buildings, a standardrequirement before construction can begin. The city, he said, hadsuspended the excavations for the time being.
Tzur said that another issue the municipal representatives will have toinvestigate was whether the city was empowered to cancel or reduce theimprovement tax as it did on behalf of the Holyland contractors.
“By doing so,” she said, “they cheated the poor people of Jerusalem whowere denied services the city could have provided with the money theywaived.”
Many of the MKs were thinking ahead to the battle over the building andplanning reform initiated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whichaims to speed up the planning process by removing many of the checksand balances that exist in the current planning and building law.
Yaakov Edri (Kadima) said that it was good that the Holyland affair had erupted at this point.
“Otherwise, the coalition majority would have trampled all over us,” heexplained. “The Holyland was approved when there were two planningcommittees. What will happen when there is only one?”
Aryeh Bibi (Kadima) called for an immediate stop to the planning andconstruction of buildings of more than 22 stories. He warned thatIsrael did not have ladders high enough to rescue occupants beyond thatheight in case of fire.
Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said the Holyland project must be halted immediately.
“You have a chance to stop it,” he told Tzur, adding that he was notopposed to high-rise buildings but that it depended where and how theywere built. “The Holyland is inappropriate,” he said. “You have thechance to repair the awful impression created by these buildings,especially when we know how they came about.”
Eitan Cabel (Labor) described the Holyland as a “thorn in the eye” andsaid there should be as few such projects as possible in the country.But, he added, that was not an easy task. “We know how hard real estatepeople are. It is difficult to stand up to them. In the local planningcommittees, everyone knows everyone. The discussion about the Holylandproject is a corridor leading to the planning reform. We have to giveweak people all the tools to help them cope with the pressure.”