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What’s in danger and why?

A Unique Site

The Greek Orthodox Church compound on Hanania Hill in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor is a site of outstanding natural beauty and deep historic, religious and cultural importance to the three monotheistic faiths.

The roughly 2.5-acre compound, enclosed by high stone walls, has been mentioned and described in numerous accounts and legends for 2000 years. 

According to Christian tradition, it is the burial site of an early Christian martyr and a 7th century patriarch, and is the original Hill of Evil Counsel. It has been protected under Christianity for more than 1,000 years.

It has also featured in Jewish and Muslim history and tradition.

Located opposite Mount Zion, Hanania Hill is one of the last stretches of semi-wild land that affords clear, unobstructed views of both the Old City and the new.

It looks out over – and can be seen from –  Montefiore’s windmill in Yemin Moshe, the Dormition Church on Mt Zion, the Al-Aqsa and Golden Dome mosques on the Temple Mount, the Russian Orthodox Church in Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and even Mount Scopus.

The site contains a wealth of archaeological remains going back to Canaanite times and possibly even paleolithic ones, trees that are almost a century old, and a rich flora which supports a wide variety of wild life.

Saving this site should concern all those — wherever they are — who love Jerusalem and want to protect its heritage against real estate barons!



Luxury homes plan

In a move that has outraged local residents and lovers of Jerusalem all over the world, and which has also caused controversy among Palestinian Orthodox Christians, the Greek Orthodox Church has sold a 110-year lease for the walled compound to real estate developers who intend to build a gated community of 61 luxury apartments on the site.

It is understood that the developers — “Abu Tor Properties Ltd” — secured the lease after helping the church to pay off a significant debt and thus fend off foreclosure on the site.

The directors of Abu Tor Properties are Michael Steinhardt – a well-known American financier and philanthropist; David Sofer, a London-based Israeli investor and businessmen; and Jonathan Shiff, managing partner at Israeli law firm Reshef and Shiff, which is representing the two investors.

A proposal by Abu Tor’s Jewish and Arab residents for an alternative plan to create a small public facility on the site, to landscape it for everyone to enjoy, and to connect it to the Sherover and Haas promenades to the east and the Railway Park to the west, has been rejected.

The plans — which call for massive building, but which — by regulation — will also provide for a small public park on the site’s slope — are currently being prepared for official deposition with the planning authorities, after which there will be a period for public opposition.



Say 'No!' to real estate here!

This project does not benefit Jerusalem in any way. It only benefits the developers.

Residential building is currently prohibited on the site — for good reason — and planning authorities are under no obligation to change zoning regulations to permit it.

The development, if approved, will add another ‘ghost village” to Jerusalem of second homes for those able to afford them.

It will mar the view from points throughout the city of the iconic mountain ridges immortalized in Psalm 125:2 — “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever more.”

It potentially endangers a fragile and painstakingly-built web of positive relationships between the neighborhood’s Jewish and Arab residents.  The narrow, dead-end Asael Street that runs along the east side of the proposed development marked ‘no man’s land’ between Israel and Jordan prior to the 1967 Six Day War.

Today, Jewish people live on the west side of the street and Arab Muslims on the east side. A variety of programs are bringing them and residents from elsewhere in both parts of the neighborhood together — a development that is perhaps unique in Jerusalem during these troubled times.

As the entrance to the proposed development is planned for Asael Street, there is a high likelihood that the road will have to be widened and that land will have to be confiscated — in all likelikhood from the Palestinian side. Jewish and Arab residents of Abu Tor are united in their determination to prevent this from happening.