JERUSALEM – A blistering afternoon in the mountains west of Jerusalem, people from all walks of life swam in the Israeli spring pools and picnicked in a Buccaneer refuge called Ain Lavan in the shade of the fig trees, as they had done for years.
But they will not have much time to enjoy it.
Developers want to build 5,000 homes, a hotel and a business district on top of Lawn Ridge.
This is not a normal land use war between tenants and defenders. Proponents of the project are being pressured, not by their profit motive, but by their willingness to fund the much-needed urban renovation in nearby crowded, low-income neighbor Kyrgyzstan.
The war will set a precedent for similar fights. Israel, the country with the highest fertility rate in the developed world, pushes 200,000 people each year into a country the size of New Jersey, half of which is uninhabited desert. The result is a housing crisis that is creating great pressure to build in declining green spaces.
The preferred alternative is to add houses to Israeli cities, replacing low-rise apartment buildings with modern high-rise buildings – instead of blocking urban expansion. Builders are making a profit by selling additional new apartments on the upper floors, effectively using aviation rights to subsidize new homes.
In the vicinity of Jerusalem, 86 percent of the 142,000 units Is expected What needs to be approved by 2040 is earmarked as urban renovation projects.
But it doesn’t work everywhere.
The renewal of the Girod Menachema, the enemies say, would come at the expense of a place where the Jerusalemites would treasure.
Girod Menachem, on the southwestern edge of Jerusalem, lies within the pre-1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured the Arab East Jerusalem.
In May, a national planning agency quickly identified plans to renovate Kyrgyz Menachem’s 28-acre Honorid complex, which currently houses 646 non-standard apartments, into 1,700 new units. But officials say planners have not been able to add enough additional housing to make a profit for developers. Adding more units is not an option: the area is already very dense.
Seems to be stuck, the planners kept an eye on the virgin mountains of Lavan Ridge. They entered into an agreement with the Israel Lands Authority to provide a grant to renovate Honorid, allowing builders to purchase land owned by public owners at Lawn Ridge at an 80 percent discount.
This purchase will allow builders to place a new neighborhood of 5,000 homes at a higher profit. The new homes will be a dessert for developers, not for Grat Menachem residents, who can’t afford them.
But cultivating open countryside rather than aviation rights will pay for urban renewal.
Ordel Matslia, 33, lives in her parents’ 580-square-foot apartment on the Honorid campus. As a woman, she shared a bedroom with two siblings. Families with five or six children move into the leaked, run-down apartment on just 430 square feet, he said.
He said that under the planned renovation of his premises, the current owners will get an additional 270 square feet in an apartment. The elevator will now leave her for four flights.
“We are not only talking about a personal change, but also a social change: to bring a better people to the neighborhood,” Ms Matslia said. “They only come if you have good buildings – not in the way they look today.”
Ms Matslia said she was torn. She, too, loves the Lavan Ridge hike.
“We want to see that be green,” he said. “But, you know, we want to live the way others do – a good life.”
Enemies call this a devastating blow: thousands of trees will be cut down. Wildlife is endangered. Construction could destroy the mountain water that feeds the springs.
Jerusalem’s 930,000 residents will have a low place to escape from the city’s concrete and turmoil.
“We are not on the beach; We don’t have a beach, ”said 16-year-old Odlia Robbins-Morkenstern, who runs a WhatsApp group that opposes the project. He called Ain Lavan a “sacred place”.
“We don’t have the Sea of Galilee,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. You can go to Ain Lavan on Friday, there are 200 people there. That’s where I go with friends. This is where I sometimes go quietly and quietly. ”
Odelia admitted that the authorities had promised that construction on the hillside would leave natural ponds unhindered. But they will not escape anymore, he said.
“Who wants to go in a spring when you are seen by people standing on their balconies?”
There is another way, some critics say, which is that the government will directly subsidize Girod Menachem’s urban renovation instead of giving the developers green space.
“We will not accept this discourse that the need for subsistence land justifies harmful projects,” says Dr Boymel, head of the Society for Conservation of Nature program in Israel, a conservation group. He said the project was the latest in a series of trips west of Jerusalem to the Virgin Mountains.
One better solution is for the government to “put its hand in its pocket” and provide cash subsidies to builders.
But Amit Bonnie-Kronish, head of the Jerusalem Urban Renewal Initiative, said there was no budget for such payments, especially given the current global economic crisis.
“If we have the choice to rebuild these old housing projects that are unsafe for nature and earthquakes, there are no safe rooms. If Lawn Ridge can help with that, I am for Lawn Ridge,” he said. “I think this is the only justification that hurts nature.”
Planners insist that they have worked hard to mitigate the environmental impact. They said they had curtailed the project, leaving the park near the fountains and planting a tree to replace each one that had been uprooted by a hiker.
Even deer living in the forest will be given a special walkway for them. As for the aquatic life, if it is damaged, the authorities have promised to put a tap in the water to allow bathers to enjoy the pools of Ain Lavan.
Opponents of the plan have appealed to the National Planning and Building Board. Its results are expected soon.
But even the enemies are torn.
18-year-old Sanon Zack has been one of the most vocal activists on the issue, updating 1,600 people on a WhatsApp group and campaigning for lawmakers and city officials. He said he felt for the residents of Creat Menachem where he lived as a boy.
“We were seven siblings in that little house and we had to separate the living room with a bookcase,” he recalled. “Those people deserve better conditions. But you can’t solve one social path by creating another.”