The Jewish National Fund is trying to reverse a permit that the Jerusalem municipality issued to a right-wing organization to erect Israel’s largest zip line.
The 784-meter zip line will require the construction of two concrete towers, a cable and other structures. It will stretch from the Armon Hanatziv promenade through the Peace Forest in the Abu Tor neighborhood.
The nonprofit Elad did not submit a special building plan for the zip line. The permit was given based on a 40-year-old plan to preserve open spaces around Jerusalem’s Old City, which provides for establishing “sports and recreational facilities” without the need for a special building plan.
However, architect Inbal Eizenband of JNF wrote Jerusalem’s city engineer Shlomo Eshkol that the Peace Forest was not in the preservation plan and is instead subject to a different, national plan that supersedes the local one.
“We received information though the media that the Elad organization received a building permit for a zip line in the Peace Forest,” she wrote. “The Peace Forest is protected by the national outline plan for forests and forestation.” She stressed that any use of the forest requires coordination with JNF. “Because the zip line plan was not brought to our attention, we ask to see the plan and to understand its content and the interested parties who submitted the plan, and to give our opinion on it,” she wrote.
Eizenband added that the zip line plan should have also received approval from the district planning and building committee. “Such a procedure was not done, to the best of our knowledge,” she stated, “and so it seems that at this stage it is impossible to extract from it legal building permits.”
Elad, which operates in East Jerusalem, focuses on settling Jews in the largely Arab Silwan neighborhood and running tourist and excavation sites.
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Attorney Sami Ershied, who represents local Palestinian residents, commented: “Elad is turning into a subcontractor of the authorities and the municipality to execute the policy of controlling the areas of the Old City and its surroundings. Giving the building permit is tainted by illegality and contradicts the outline plan for the area, which designates this area for a forest.”
Meanwhile, Khaled Zir, a resident of Silwan, was questioned for several hours on Wednesday on suspicions that he prevented access to Elad vehicles. The organization is trying to build a restaurant and a large rope bridge above Hinnom Valley, not far from Zir’s property. Zir claimed that its workers were trespassing on his property and carrying out works without a permit. Elad countered that it is merely doing landscaping and not construction requiring a permit.
The Jerusalem municipality said that “The [zip line] project was given a legal building permit. The letter received on Tuesday in the building inspection branch will be examined and will receive a response.”
Elad stated that “The permit was received legally and in coordination with relevant factors.”