“Greater Jerusalem”

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Ancient olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane

I spent 6 days in Jerusalem, not enough time to get to meet the people and organizations I wanted to network with and certainly not enough time to acquaint myself with “the situation” here, but enough time to leave me feeling very depressed about the future.

Everyone I spoke with in the city, including cab drivers, transit riders, store clerks, clergy and religious leaders, retired Jewish women my age, long-time Israeli-Americans who raised their children in Jerusalem, a tour leader, and a Palestinian resident who is a 3rd generation resident of the Old City, EVERYONE told me in so many words that life is very difficult now and they don’t have hope that “the situation” is going to get any better in the future.

My next question was “Why no hope?” 12783646_10208806070174975_2794744035196101163_o

Some laid the blame squarely on Bibi and his government. Others said the blame was shared by both Bibi and Abbas. A couple mentioned the complicity of the U.S. and the international community for allowing “the situation” to deteriorate to this extreme and not forcing Israel to change course. Greater Jerusalem Eng 2015Although I’ve read and seen photos of “Greater Jerusalem” and the high security wall snaking through the landscape, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw and heard on my last day in Jerusalem. I joined a 4-hour study tour conducted by Ir Amim which focused on planning and development policies in the “Greater Jerusalem” area.

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While the Jewish owner received a permit to construct this large building with a 135% floor area ratio, his Palestinian neighbor was denied a permit to add rooms onto his house because the zoning regulations only allowed him 35% FAR.

As a city planner who entered the profession 35 years ago in the United States with the noble goal of creating safe, just and sustainble communities, I felt personally devastated that the planning profession in Israel has been co-opted in such a brutal and disgusting fashion. The land use and development facts and figures shared on the Ir Amim tour are damning evidence of the politicians using the planning profession as their private whores. Read: Trapped by Planning: Israeli Policy, Planning and Development in the Palestinian Neighborhoods of East Jerusalem (2014) to get a clear picture of “the situation” on the ground from a planning context.

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The “security wall” snaking through “Greater Jerusalem”

Israeli planners are proficient at preparing plans for Jewish settlements but have failed to make any plans to meet the growth and natural expansion of Arab communities within “Greater Jerusalem.” Building permits fly out the window for Israelis (nearly 51,000 since 1967) while it’s nearly impossible for a Palestinian to get a building permit from City Hall (less than 4,000 issued since 1967).
In 2008, the Palestinians in “Greater Jerusalem” finally said “enough is enough” and hired architects, planners and lawyers to prepare community plans for the Arab communities. They submitted 190 town plans but only 125 building permits have been issued in response to these plans.

The YMCA in Jerusalem shares a hopeful message but I wonder how it resonates with the majority of people in Jerusalem, both Jews and Arabs.

One-third of the population of Jerusalem is Palestinian but only 12% of the city budget goes to Palestinian neighborhoods. That’s why I saw playgrounds and parks, sidewalks and recycling, schools and community centers in well-maintained Jewish neighborhoods, while the Palestinian neighborhoods nextdoor have no sidewalks, potholes in the streets, overflowing trash dumps, not enough classrooms so parents are now paying their neighbors to educate their children, and certainly no community centers or clinics. If I was a planner in Jerusalem, I might resort to guerilla tactics to upset the status quo at city hall.  

This Palestinian shopkeeper in the Old City showed me his family tree written in Arabic. His family’s heritage and long history in Jerusalem are under attack and he doesn’t have any hope for the future. I left the city with a very heavy heart, not sure if I’ll ever be able to return but not sure I ever want to. 12419121_10208801757827169_2958263323955961121_o

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4 Comments

Filed under Israel, Uncategorized

4 responses to ““Greater Jerusalem”

  1. Kay Hays

    That makes me very sad too! Thank you for sharing your experiences, photos etc. Love you. Kay

  2. Pingback: “Greater Jerusalem” | circusbuoy

  3. Cindy Madrid

    How in the world do the Israelis think this is sustainable? Slums? How aesthetic can that be?

  4. is this now, Lora, did you get to Jerusalem? I guess not Gaza yet…. Please see our appeal for our Gazan friends, it is extremely long because the GOFUNDME people demanded a lot of details. We are 6 now who help this family I have known since I met the father as a young paramedic who drove an ambulance during at the Al Aqsa massacre. The link is *http*s://www.*gofundme*.com/*survive*-*gaza* all the very best from Heather (your lookalike in Copenhagen) ​

    [image: photo] *Heather Spears * Artist, Writer t: 4535364610 | e: spears.heather@gmail.com | w: http://www.heatherspears.com

    On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 4:22 PM, “لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza?” wrote:

    > Lora Lucero posted: ” I spent 6 days in Jerusalem, not enough time to get > to meet the people and organizations I wanted to network with and certainly > not enough time to acquaint myself with “the situation” here, but enough > time to leave me feeling very depressed about the fu” >

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