We learned recently that Jerusalem had set two new records, poignantly demarcating its unyielding position on the international stage of history.
Mayor Nir Barkat declared that the year 2013 saw more building starts than in any year since 1993 – a total of 3,442 apartments. This represents an increase of some 40 percent over the year before, and an even higher increase over 2011. Completed apartments in 2013 numbered 2,430, or 670 more than in 2012 and over 1,000 more than in 2011.
Under the shadow of a long-time de-facto construction freeze in the holy city, Housing Minister Uri Ariel said that “It is unthinkable to freeze building in Israel’s capital. I will continue to prepare and market construction plans in Yerushalayim, just as in the rest of the country.”
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new synagogue in the growing neighborhood of Homat Shmuel (Har Homa, pop. 25,000), Ariel declared: “If someone thinks that he can just say poof! and then we won’t build in Jerusalem, or anywhere else in our Land, I say: We will most certainly build!”
He was referring to U.S. officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry who all but demand that Israel stop building in any location that was under Jordan’s pre-1967 illegal and unrecognized control.
“We will build in Gilo,” said Ariel, “in Ramat Shlomo, in Ramot, and in Homat Shmuel.” These are among the neighborhoods liberated by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 and are integral parts of Israel’s municipal capital city.
Declarations of this sort are critical in the struggle to ensure that Jerusalem remains united under Israeli sovereignty – but just as necessary are actions to accompany them. Unfortunately, most of the construction in Jerusalem is taking place in the western parts of the city; only in Pisgat Ze’ev and Ramot, among the post-’67 neighborhoods, is new construction currently underway. Grassroots support for building Jerusalem, as spearheaded by KeepJerusalem.org, is critical; see below for ways you can participate.
At the same time, plans have been announced to triple the size of the Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center, to allocate 4.5 acres for the construction of the Jerusalem Nature Museum, and to grant another acre-plus to the Bible Lands Museum, not far from the Knesset and the Israel Museum. On the other hand, the government has overturned a seven-year-old decision to complete the transfer of all government offices to the capital; the deadline has been put off from 2015 to 2018. KeepJerusalem.org echoes Mayor Nir Barkat’s protest to Prime Minister Netanyahu against the decision.
The second Jerusalem record was far less welcome than the construction mini-boom. It turns out that in the month of March, Jews living in the liberated Jerusalem neighborhoods – mainly in Ir David below the Old City and Maaleh Zeitim on the Mt. Of Olives – were attacked by Arab terrorists no fewer than 157 times. This is the highest rate of attacks in four months. Over the past 18 months, the fewest number of attacks in a month was nearly 80 – for an average of more than three attacks every day.
The violence comes in the form of rocks, boulders and even Molotov cocktails. The numbers reveal the helplessness of the police and the Public Security Ministry headed by Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitz vis-à-vis anti-Jewish Arab violence in eastern Jerusalem.
Aharonovitz has come under increasing attack for many aspects of his performance. He recently appeared before the Knesset Interior Committee and admitted that a full 66 percent of violent crimes in the country go unreported – indicating a “lack of public trust in the police,” according to MK David Azulai (Shas).