The Jerusalem Municipality and the General Custodian at the Justice Ministry announced the construction of a new neighborhood called Givat HaShaked (Almond Hill) beyond the “green line” in southern Jerusalem (but since it is part of the area liberated in 1967, it’s considered part of eastern Jerusalem), near the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa. The new neighborhood is planned in a part of eastern Jerusalem where land registration has begun. The land registration effort was initially designed to benefit the Arabs, but so far only the new project and Jewish homes in Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) are reportedly included, to the chagrin of the left in Israel.
In addition to the housing units, the plan allocates space for the establishment of a new school as well as employment and commercial spaces that will be integrated into the ground floors of the buildings facing the streets. The plan also requires access for pedestrians and cyclists to the Emek Refaim Metropolitan Park which is located near the neighborhood.
The planned construction was suspended for President Joe Biden’s visit this summer, but Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked refused to eliminate it altogether, declaring: “It is unthinkable to prevent development and construction in this area as well as throughout the city.”
Shaked entered a tiff with Likud advocate Yaakov Bardugo, who tweeted on Monday: “Shaked abandons the Givat Shaked neighborhood in the heart of Jerusalem. Shaked talks for the right and acts for the left. Givat Ha’Shaked is a plan for hundreds of units for young couples near Teddy Stadium, and Minister Shaked is preventing its promotion.”
The term in Israeli politics for when an opponent gives you an opportunity to hit them hard is “to raise the ball for a slam down,” as in a ping pong game. Bardugo certainly raised the ball and Shaked responded expertly with a vicious albeit polite slam down:
“My friend @bardugojacob, as I said, the Givat Ha’Shaked plan was approved today by the Jerusalem District Committee. Thank you for putting this important right-wing issue on the public agenda. I was happy to implement it.”
— איילת שקד Ayelet Shaked (@Ayelet__Shaked) September 5, 2022
The plan calls for 700 housing units, in four 24-story buildings in the new neighborhood, alongside six-story buildings. A total of 210 housing units in the plan will be allocated for long-term rentals, a much-needed asset in Israel.
Looking at the image that was released on Monday, the new neighborhood’s buildings do not include a crucial amenity for a religious-Jewish clientele: there are no sukkah porches. Typically, in buildings intended for religious Jews, there are small porches that are situated up and down the outside walls so that no porch is directly above those below to facilitate exposure to the open sky. Yes, it’s only for one week a year, but it is crucial. And judging from the same picture, there aren’t enough spaces on the ground nearby for all the neighbors to erect their sukkahs.
The tall buildings also bring up the Shabbat elevators issue – they will have to provide them or forget about religious couples moving in.
The Jerusalem Municipality issued a statement saying: “The Jerusalem Development Authority is promoting for the General Custodian a detailed plan for the establishment of the Givat Ha-Shaked neighborhood, which is located near the Beit Safafa neighborhood. The planned neighborhood is in a high-quality land division in the southeastern part of the city and is another step toward thickening and strengthening the city and creating new housing units for all the city’s residents. The plan creates new housing options for all sectors in the city, without direction or designation.”