13 Jewish homes get initial approval in Sheikh Jarrah

Proposals for two properties pass municipality committee, part of plan for continuous line of residences in the Arab neighborhood.

sheikh jarrah jewish house 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sheikh jarrah jewish house 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A new Jewish housing complex in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah received initial approval from a Jerusalem municipality committee on Monday.
If the proposal passes the Interior Ministry’s District Planning and Building Committee, the two separate properties will have 13 or 14 apartment units. It generally takes properties anywhere from three to 10 years from the time a project is approved by the municipality committee until construction starts.
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World leaders did not condemn the proposal on Monday, as they have with most other announcements of construction approvals in east Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s Office also said it had not yet received queries about the municipal decision.
One source said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had made his position on matters like these clear – and that just as Arabs can buy property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, so Jews should be able to buy property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in the capital.
“The government does not get involved in this,” the official said.
The private properties in Sheikh Jarrah were purchased by a group of Israeli and foreign investors, and are represented by right-wing activist Chaim Silberstein.
“Our goal is to see the Nahalat Shimon and Shimon Hatzadik neighborhoods as one large unit,” Silberstein told The Jerusalem Post, referring to the names of the Jewish neighborhoods in Sheikh Jarrah prior to 1948.
“We aim to build hundreds of units, to connect them with the western part of the city,” he said.
Many of the houses were originally owned by Jewish families, who left the area when it was controlled by the Jordanians between 1948 and 1967.
The plan passed, as expected, with only one opposing vote – from Meretz’s Pepe Alalu, who heads the opposition.
“All these projects connected with settlers get the green light,” he told the Post on Monday.
“Many times the arguments have been about Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev or Ramat Shlomo, which everyone knows will be part of the Jewish capital, but this is an Arab neighborhood,” he said, adding that according to accepted consensus, in a finalstatus agreement, Jewish areas would remain with Israel, and Arab neighborhoods would become part of Palestine.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now called the project a “provocation,” warning that it was the first of many similar announcements.
“It’s not a secret that all the plans in Sheikh Jarrah are meant to create a corridor and connect the dots between west Jerusalem and Mount Scopus to cut through Sheikh Jarrah,” she said.
The plan calls for the demolition of two existing structures on Dahlmann and Kundar streets. The Kundar property will have 10 apartments in a six-story building, and the Dahlmann property will have three or four. An Arab family is currently living in the building on Dahlmann Street.
Twenty-three members of the Sa’ao family live in the building, according to Sheikh Jarrah resident Nasser Ghawi, who was evicted from his home in August 2009. “[Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat] is encouraging hate in Jerusalem,” Ghawi said, accusing the mayor of approving plans for Jewish construction only.
Silberstein said the investors were currently involved in a court case in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to evict the Sa’ao family members, who he said have been squatting illegally in the structure.
Around 30 demonstrators from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement came to protest the meeting on Monday morning with drums and megaphones. They chanted for about an hour in Kikar Safra, and then attempted to march down Jaffa Road. One protester was arrested and two were taken for investigation, after police asked the demonstrators to disband when they left Kikar Safra. All of the demonstrators were later released.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.