This is a guest post by Emily Cutts.
Israel is an ever-changing and growing nation but with growth comes the problem of housing. This is especially true because of land issues between Jews and Arabs. Thus certain areas are majority Arab such as East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But the housing balance may soon change as Jewish construction has begun in Eastern Jerusalem.
According to the JTA:
Twenty new Jewish homes are set to be built on the site by American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who purchased the property in 1985. In 2007, Moskowitz proposed a plan to build 122 apartments on the site; he modified the plan to 20 apartments in 2009.
This of course is not sitting well with some. But the construction is not just limited to one American-Jewish millionaire. The Jerusalem District Building and Planning Committee is also looking to approve a plan that not only would expand construction but also codify the municipal zoning of the entire city. This would essentially mean that all zoning and construction procedures would apply to both halves of the city (which makes sense, no?).
The new construction would not only mean more Jews in East Jerusalem. It would also mean that some Palestinians would be evicted from their homes because they were illegally built. The city also wants to construct a tourism center that would stretch to the City of David.
While all this sounds promising for the Jewish people, it also leads to even more conflict. One of the hot spots being the old Sheperd’s Hotel which is located in the Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah but owned by the aforementioned Jewish-American millionaire.
The Economist reported:
“Israeli Jews and local Palestinians now protest there, relatively peacefully, each week. However, bullet-marked walls and damaged cars attested this week to the much less peaceful activity around another chain of Jewish settlement-sites, deep within the steep, winding lanes of the Arab district of Silwan which sprawls beneath the Old City walls to the south.
Palestinian residents described how on June 27th police charged through Silwan’s narrow thoroughfares firing tear-gas grenades through windows and doors, choking people inside their homes. They produced the spent canisters as evidence. Much more seriously, they exhibited cartridge cases of live ammunition, claiming that the civilian employees of private-guard companies fired in the air in response to stone-throwing by Palestinian youths.”
Those whose homes will be demolished will be relocated and the mayor is offering building licenses to some 60 homes that were constructed illegally. But this offer is doing little to help the situation. Although these plans for construction are putting a strain on the already tense Jewish and Arab relations there is a small glimmer of hope – Israelis tour guides can return to Jericho.
The JTA reported:
“The tour guides’ entrance was approved Thursday by the Israeli military and the Civil Administration, the Israel Defense Forces announced. The entrance was coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, which has jurisdiction over Jericho.”
Even though the new construction plans and the tours are seemingly unrelated, they are ultimately linked as the face of Israel changes into a possibly more integrated country.