Construction in Jerusalem Nature Reserve to Go Ahead, Despite Municipality's Opposition

Despite opposition by the Jerusalem municipality, 1,400 new housing units were approved for construction at Mitzpeh Neftoah by National Planning and Building Committee.

Olivier Fitoussi

The National Planning and Building Committee for Preferred Housing Projects on Wednesday approved construction in Jerusalem’s controversial Mitzpeh Neftoah area, despite vehement opposition by the municipality, which threatened to take legal action.

The resolution passed by a large majority, with the Ministry of Environmental Protection representative abstaining. Environmental groups were greatly disappointed by this abstention, as their motion opposing the plan was rejected.

The committee expressed its view that the addition of housing units to the city is important, stating that environmental oversight during construction will be implemented by the Israel Land Authority and the treasury. 

Archaeological sites will be protected and housing for the elderly and students will be included in the project. The plan allows for the construction of 1,400 units, some of them in five-to-seven-story buildings, covering an area of 105 acres, which takes up more than half of the area’s nature reserve.

A representative of environmental groups in the committee said the plan will greatly impact an area with high natural value. He praised attempts to limit the damage but stated that these were insufficient. The Jewish National Fund also objected to the plan, which converts forested land to a residential area.

The land at issue sits at the edge of Ramot and is considered a unique natural spot in the Jerusalem area.