Israel Environment Ministry Opposes Plan for New Rehovot Neighborhood

Ministry claims that plan would harm important open spaces and that the construction reserves inside the city should be utilized

The rendering of the planned new neighborhood in Rehovot.
Rosenfeld-Arens Architects

The National Committee for Planning Priority Housing Areas last week posited a plan for a new residential neighborhood in Rehovot, which will opened for the filing of public opposition. The Environmental Protection Ministry opposed the plan, claiming that it will harm important open spaces, and that the construction reserves inside the city should be utilized.

The plan submitted by Dira Lehaskir, in coordination with the Rehovot municipality, includes 6,900 residential units, with about 1,000 units for long-term rental, as well as 170 dunams for public buildings, 230 for open areas, and 700,000 square meters for commerce and business. The total area is about 1,800 dunams in east Rehovot, an area defined as the city’s development reserve.

“The committee has approved an important plan for expanding the city of Rehovot,” said committee head Ariel Yotzer, of the Finance Ministry Budget Division. “It includes intensive urban development, streets with a lot of commercial activity and many links to the existing city, and constitutes a significant addition of residential units in the center of the country.

“The plan was promoted with the support of the Rehovot municipality, and includes many business areas that will contribute to the strengthening the city’s economy and its status as a leading city in the center of the country.”

The east Rehovot plan has aroused the opposition of city residents, who claimed that it harms an important reserve of open space used for leisure-time activities, which offers many natural attractions. The Environmental Protection Ministry also opposed the plan. Architect Sabeta Shustraub, in charge of environmental planning in the central district, told the committee that construction in Rehovot should be developed in stages, with preference for construction within the confines of the existing city before building on open spaces.

She said that within the city limits there are large areas where construction plans have yet to be implemented. Another option is to build in areas where past building restrictions - due to aircraft noise - have recently been lifted.

The new neighborhood would be located a short distance from an Israeli Military Industries plant, which causes serious pollution of the land and the groundwater. The Environmental Protection Ministry said that tests for assessing the influence of the pollution on the new neighborhood have not been completed.

The Society for the Protection of Nature also opposed the construction plan. “This area is part of a high-quality network of open spaces, which includes a nature reserve and an important winter pool,” said Dror Boymel. ‘It is also adjacent to an ecological corridor. This is a neighborhood that does not properly exploit the area, and includes wide roads that will cause difficulties for pedestrians and will serve mainly private cars.”

Rehovot Mayor Rahamim Malul: “The new neighborhood will offer a high quality of life with a range of public spaces and bustling commercial streets. I have no doubt that the proposed plan will contribute to the city’s economic strength by creating a supply of desirable employment, with good access for pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation an private cars.”