Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski wants to rezone a neighborhood of Wadi Joz, in the eastern section of the capital, for the purpose of settling Jews in the area. The neighborhood in question was zoned and planned a number of years ago by the Housing Ministry for Arab residents.
In a letter sent recently to the Housing Ministry, Lupolianski wrote that "zoning the neighborhood for a Jewish population is likely to contribute significantly to the unification of the city because we are dealing with a neighborhood that lies between Mount Scopus and the Old City, in the eastern section of the city."
The Jerusalem mayor believes that "the move will strengthen the link between the Jewish neighborhoods and public institutions in the Mount Scopus area and the eastern part of the Old City."
According to Lupolianski's letter to the Housing Ministry, "The neighborhood is located below Hebrew University, while the homes of the neighborhood are slated to overlook the main road to Ma'aleh Adumim on the one side, and the Emek Tzurim national park on the other.
"In light of this, and for security reasons, too, I believe that the neighborhood should be zoned for a Jewish population. This will ensure the safety of those traveling on the road to Ma'aleh Adumim on the one hand, as well as the safety of the visitors to the national park on the other, thereby helping with the development of the park as part of the national park in the Old City basin."
A process of Judaization has already begun above the area in question, close to the monument to those killed in the 1948 convoy to Mount Scopus: Over the past few years, Arab residents have been moving out of the area of the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood and Jewish families have taken their place. The Shimon Hatzadik compound is under Jewish ownership and Jews lived in the area up until the War of Independence in 1948.
The compound is currently, and gradually, being cleared of its Arab population by means of legal procedures; but tension has erupted from time to time.
Commenting on Lupolianski's request to the Housing Ministry, the chairman of the Yahad branch in Jerusalem, Ehud Arnon, said that the mayor, who always spoke nobly of equality for the Arab population in the capital, was now revealing himself to be no different from his predecessor. Arnon, a former Jerusalem city councillor, opposes the rezoning proposal and is demanding that the neighborhood be built for the capital's Arab population, which, he says, has suffered land appropriations and discrimination for many years.
Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gideon Shmerling said that Lupolianski was doing a lot to prepare outline and construction plans for the capital's Arab sector, too. With regard to the planning of the neighborhood on the slopes of Mount Scopus, Shmerling noted that it was intended to create territorial contiguity between the Mount Scopus, French Hill and Ramat Eshkol neighborhoods and that a decision on the matter had yet to be made.
Housing Ministry sources have said that Lupolianski's request makes a lot of sense from a planning point of view; but they also noted that no decision on the matter had been made.
Meanwhile, according to data compiled by officials drawing up the new outline plan for Jerusalem, the capital's Jewish population is expected to shrink by up to 60 percent by 2020.
At present, the city's population is some 67 percent Jewish and 33 percent Arab; but the last two years have seen a dramatic slowdown in the growth rate of Jerusalem's Jewish population in relation to the growth rate of the Arab sector.
The figures in the new outline plan show that between 1967 and 2002, Jerusalem's population grew at an average annual rate of some 12,000 residents, with the Jewish sector comprising around 63 percent of this number. Over the past two years, however, the Jewish sector's part in Jerusalem's population growth has been 43 percent only.
The outline plan notes that the government's target with regard to the demographic balance between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem - 70 percent Jews and 30 percent Arabs - is no longer realistic.
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