Jews Fighting Jerusalem Arab Project Will Soon Find They’re on the Losing Side

In Jerusalem, which is notorious for environmental and social battles, hardly a week passes without some new struggle erupting against construction plans, new roads, or public transportation. Yet, none have been as successful as the struggle by some residents of the East Jerusalem Israeli settlement of Har Homa against an employment and services center that was supposed to arise between their neighborhood and the Palestinian one of Umm Tuba.

Not a week passed since the plan’s presentation to the public, yet the municipality and the Jerusalem ministry, which lay behind the plan and view it as their flagship, have decided to shelve it. The combination of blatant, covert racism and local politicians who promoted the fight for a third national election have led Mayor Moshe Leon and Jerusalem Minister Zeev Elkin to fold faster than the residents had even expected.

However, the people of Har Homa may discover their victory is a Pyrrhic one – first of all because of the damage to their quality of life, and Second, because Jerusalem is going in exactly the other direction.

Har Homa, one of the most recently built neighborhoods in Jerusalem, was constructed in the 1990s beyond the Green Line on land confiscated from the people of Umm Tuba. The settlement faced fierce international opposition, because it went up after – and in opposition to – the Oslo Accords.

An aerial view of the area.

Despite it being the latest, Jerusalem has not evinced any ability to learn a thing about urban qualities. From many perspectives, Har Homa has more problems than any other neighborhood in the city.

The neighborhood was initially planned to be one for private cars, and the main use of its streets was meant for parking. It has hardly any services, trade or jobs, and is connected to the world by exactly one road — like a balloon on a string — while public transportation is sorely lacking.

The upshot is that it’s a commuter neighborhood, whose residents are utterly dependent on cars and spend hours stuck in traffic and looking for parking. Building a big employment and trade center within walking distance could have made their lives significantly better.