PA Funds Street Repairs in East Jerusalem

When city didn't listen, Arab residents turned to Salam Fayyad - and got NIS 1.2 million.

The Arab neighborhood of Dahiyat al-Salam lies within Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, but it is the Palestinian Authority that is paving the roads and upgrading infrastructure there.

A contractor from Nablus began paving hundreds of meters of the neighborhood's streets about two weeks ago, with the help of some residents.

Arab town - Olivier Fitoussi - October 11 2010
Olivier Fitoussi

Although details regarding the sources of the funding are not entirely clear, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has made NIS 1.2 million available for the improvements in the neighborhood, which is on the Palestinian side of the West Bank separation fence.

An official in Fayyad's office said residents of Dahiyat al-Salam initiated a number of projects for which contributions were raised from various sources, including the Palestinian government. Neighborhood residents recently published a notice of thanks to Fayyad in the East Jerusalem daily Al Quds.

The unpaved roads were causing health problems, said neighborhood committee chairman Nasser Jubran.

"During the winter, people used to walk in mud all the time. During the summer, small children had breathing problems because of the dust," he said. "Residents of this neighborhood pay NIS 3 million a year in property taxes [to the Jerusalem municipality]. Why aren't we entitled to a minimal level of services? We didn't ask for a playground or a city square with flowers like in the [Jewish] French Hill neighborhood, but it's painful to see children going to school in mud."

The municipality does provide some services, like garbage collection, which it outsources to private contractors, but residents have complained that the city was not maintaining the neighborhood properly. And the trash doesn't always get picked up either, according to Jubran, who said he has had to contact several different people just to get the city's contractor to remove the refuse.

Residents said they contacted Fayyad after the municipality did not provide a satisfactory response to their requests. The matter was referred a short time later to Jamal Jawarish, the PA minister in charge of Jerusalem affairs, Jubran said.

The Jerusalem municipality said it does maintain the neighborhood.

"The municipality performs infrastructure and maintenance work in the neighborhood, as in every Jerusalem neighborhood," the city said in a statement. "In that context, several months ago various infrastructure work, for example work on sidewalks, road repair and other work, was carried out. In 2011, additional infrastructure work will be carried out in accordance with new budget provisions."

Residents have said, however, that they have spent years asking the municipality to repair neglected streets and sidewalks in the neighborhood.

According to a recent Palestinian government report, the Palestinian Authority has also invested about $2 million in the education system in East Jerusalem, even though schools in East Jerusalem are supposed to receive all of their government funding from the Jerusalem municipality and Israel's Education Ministry.

But the repairs are hardly the end of the road for the residents of Dahiyat al-Salam.

Now that the roads are being paved, they say, motorists are driving faster. Residents have asked the municipality to install speed bumps and traffic signs on the neighborhood streets, but say the city has yet to respond.