Beit Safafa debate reaches Israel's highest court

Supreme Court to Hear Petition Against Road That Cuts Arab Neighborhood in Half

Israeli author David Grossman sends letter of support for Beit Safafa residents to President Shimon Peres, calling on him to take a stand.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Supreme Court will hear Wednesday a petition by residents of Beit Safafa against construction of a highway that would cut this East Jerusalem neighborhood in half.

The highway is due to connect the tunnel road from Gush Etzion and the Gilo neighborhoods to the Begin Highway. Six months ago the residents of Beit Safafa began protesting against the road. The District Court rejected the petition despite the road being partially planned in the 1980's, and despite it passing meters from resident's houses.

The residents claim that the road was planned decades ago without consulting with them or allowing them to submit objections and without offering compensation for damages. The Begin Highway running through Jerusalem does not cut any Jewish neighborhood in half, nor pass next to Jewish houses, and still, residents received compensation for damages.

The planned road would cut several dozen families in Beit Safafa from the center of the village and cause them to walk a long way or drive by car in order to reach the mosque, the grocery store or the kindergarten.

Last week several Labor MKs met with Beit Safafa residents to express support. MK Isaac Herzog said that "the part of the road planned to go through Beit Safafa is being constructed on the base of general plans more than twenty years old, and without allowing some 200 families who will be cut off from the neighborhood – to submit objections.

Herzog added that "in the other parts of the road, detailed plans were presented, allowing residents to submit objections. The new road will cut the neighborhood and several of its inner roads, will be an environmental disaster and completely alter the village's quiet atmosphere."

Author David Grossman, who expressed support of Beit Safafa residents, wrote a letter to President Shimon Peres: "Who, if not you, can take a stand. These are Jerusalem residents, the people of your city. They really are the poor people of your city, because no one will protect them, no one will speak on their behalf. Please, in a place where there are no humans, you must be that human being."

The Van Leer Institute held a debate on the road Monday. Before the debate the institute called on 21 officials in the Jerusalem municipality, Transport Ministry and other authorities to participate in the debate, but all of the officials refused citing various reasons and excuses.

Residents of Beit Safafa, in southern Jerusalem, protest the construction of a road through their neighborhood.Credit: Emil Salman