Photo Credit: City of Jerusalem (file photo)
Satellite photo of Atarot industrial park and the old Atarot airport in northern Jerusalem.

The Israeli government has informed the US that Israel won’t be moving ahead with the construction of a much-needed neighborhood for Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) in the Atarot section of northern Jerusalem, according to a report by Barak Ravid.

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The 9000-unit neighborhood was supposed to have been built on the remains of the former Atarot airport, and plans for the construction had been approved by the City of Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee on Wednesday in response to the current housing crisis. But upon learning of the plans, the US State Department officials expressed their disapproval of the project, as they want the Atarot neighborhood to become part of a future Palestinian State.

“We worked hard to design the neighborhood to address the needs of the hareidi-religious public and to make sure the plans fit [that] sector,” said Eliezer Rauchberger, acting mayor and chair of the Planning and Building Committee on Wednesday. “I thank the mayor and all the professional staff their hard work. This is an historic day in Jerusalem.”

The site, which measures 1,243 dunams (307 acres), would have had thousands of housing units, one or more hotels, and public buildings – bringing in commerce and employment.

Artist’s rendering of the future Atarot neighborhood, Courtesy of the Housing Ministry

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon noted that the hareidi-religious neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo was built 50 years ago – and since then, no other neighborhood has been established for that large community.

The Atarot airport went defunct during the Second Intifada, due to concerns the Arabs would try and shoot down the planes as they took off and landed.

If the Palestinian Authority manages to take over the Atarot area, Jerusalem will be cut off from the north.

In modern times, Jews resettled in Atarot in 1919, but were forced to evacuate in 1948, after the Arabs massacred a supply convey in March 1948. Atarot was then illegally occupied by Jordan until 1967. While they controlled the area, the Jordanians plowed over the Jewish graveyard in Atarot.

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