What’s the story?
The Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem has leased to developers a site of outstanding natural beauty and deep historic, religious and cultural importance to the three monotheistic faiths.
With unobstructed views of both the Old City and the new, the site – at the summit of Abu Tor – is believed to be the Hill of Evil Counsel. It has been protected under Christianity for more than 1,000 years.
Two overseas developers — Michael Steinhardt and David Soffer — have submitted a plan to build extensive residential housing on this site. Statutory plan Ayin Mem Tesha from the 1970s — introduced by the late Mayor Teddy Kollek precisely to protect the Old City Basin from excessive construction, forbids housing on this site. The investors are asking for special permission to enable them to sidestep the regulations on the site.
The plan, which contributes nothing to the Abu neighborhood and bears no relationship to the architectural fabric of Abu Tor, has outraged local residents and is causing controversy within the Greek Orthodox Church and among Palestinian Orthodox Christians.
The roughly 2.5-acre compound, enclosed by high stone walls, has been mentioned and described in numerous accounts and legends for 2000 years. 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 Mount Scopus.
The site contains a wealth of archaeological remains going back to Canaanite times and possibly earlier, trees that are almost a century old, and a rich flora which supports a wide variety of wild life.
The planned construction will:
- Destroy the last remaining undeveloped site in the area, where – uniquely – a story mentioned in the Gospels (the decision to hand Jesus over to the Romans) intersects with known historic Jewish events and characters.
- Rob future generations of an integral part of the sacred landscape of Jerusalem, which gives meaning to the archaeology and to the Canaanite, Jewish, Christian and Islamic history associated with the site.
- Compromise the historic geography of mountain ridges and sacred sites seen from multiple points throughout Jerusalem.
- Deprive the residents of the neighborhood and the city of a uniquely beautiful and peaceful place affording panoramic views of Jerusalem and the Mountains of Moab to the east.
This development plan, with its exclusive housing, will do nothing to relieve the city’s housing shortage for students and families on low to average incomes.
It will create more ghost housing for Jerusalem by providing luxury apartments for overseas owners who visit Israel a couple of times a year.
The only party standing to gain from this development is the investment company.
HELP US TO PERSUADE THE PLANNING AUTHORITIES TO PUT JERUSALEM’S RESIDENTS, AND ITS HERITAGE, ABOVE THE PROFITS OF OVERSEAS INVESTORS!
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