Israel Delays Plans for Jerusalem Park to Consult With Local Arabs

The nature authority and right-wing politicians want the park to go on the only land where the neighborhoods of Isawiyah and A-Tur could expand.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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The area where the park near Mount Scopus would be established.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The National Planning and Building Council has put on hold plans for a national park on the slopes of Mount Scopus until the needs of the two adjacent Arab neighborhoods are assessed.

Plans for Mount Scopus Slopes National Park in Jerusalem have been pushed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and right-wing politicians.

But local people, planning groups and leftist organizations say the real goal is to restrict development of the two neighborhoods next door — Isawiyah and A-Tur. The park would lie on the only area where those congested districts could expand.

Opponents say the area slated for the project lacks the natural or archaeological elements that would justify a park.

“There is room for the national park plan to be approved, and the fundamental reasons for approval are proper, justified and within the bounds of the National Parks and Nature Reserves Law,” the national council said in a statement.

But the council had not received “a sufficient foundation including an analysis of the needs of the population in the neighborhoods of the objectors.” The council added that there had been no study of land reserves — a condition before a decision could be handed down on the park’s boundaries.

The decision to establish the park passed in the district planning and building committee, even though Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz asked that the issue be postponed so that representatives of the two neighborhoods could be consulted.

Area residents, assisted by nonprofit groups Ir Amim and Bimkom, appealed the district committee’s decision to the national council, which has now returned the issue to the district committee to provide the missing information.