When Green Zones meet the Green Line

A new Emek Shaveh report on the impact of new tourism projects on the green areas along the Green Line in Jerusalem

With the goal of obliterating the Green Line, the Hinnom Valley and the Peace Forest have been undergoing accelerated tourism development processes in the past two years that will change the historic landscape of the city.

Over the past two years, the green spaces between Israeli and Palestinian neighborhoods have been subject to a series of development plans aimed at  eliminating the Green Line and displacing the Palestinians from these areas.  These efforts are primarily focused on the Hinnom Valley/Wadi A-Rababa (located between the neighborhoods of Silwan and Abu Tor in East Jerusalem and borders the Jerusalem Cinematheque in the West) and the Peace Forest (located between the Palestinian neighborhoods of Abu Tor and Jabel Mukaber and the Haas-Sherover (Armon Hanatziv) Promenade) [see map below].

The presence of the Elad Foundation in the area dates back to 2005, when this settlers’ organization received the rights to administer the site of the ancient aqueduct located in the juncture between Armon Hanatziv and Jabel Mukaber.  In 2008, the Israel Antiquities Authority undertook archaeological excavations funded by the Elad Foundation on the slopes of Mount Zion.  The presence of Elad in the area was enhanced by turning the excavation into an educational project aimed particularly at youth.  The current phase of development in the area and the increase of the Israeli presence has wide-reaching implications for the landscape, including a dramatic change in the city skyline and the intended use of the areas.

Projects in advanced planning stages in the Hinnom Valley:

Suspension Bridge:  A bridge 200 meters in length that will cross over the valley, from Mount Zion to Abu Tor, straight to the café run by the Elad Foundation in the neighborhood.  The bridge has been defined by the Jerusalem Municipality as a pedestrian pathway, and therefore does not require approval by the planning committees. It is subject only to a simple permit procedure.   In 2018, Peace Now and Emek Shaveh petitioned against the approval process, but a decision has not yet been made.

Cable Car to the Old City:  The cable car will change the valley and the skyline beyond recognition.  A depot station for the cable car will be situated near Ein Rogel street in Abu Tor from where the cars will sail over the Hinnom Valley to Mount Zion.  Two columns for the cable car, rising to a height of a building at least six-stories tall, will be placed in the valley. Together with the cables and the cars, they will be a blemish on the historic skyline.

Gardening Orders:  As part of the development work in the area, the Jerusalem Municipality has issued ‘gardening orders,’ essentially expropriating private green spaces totaling approximately 15 acres, which cannot be built upon because they are located within a national park.  A large portion of these areas are located near Elad’s new performance venue/cafe, ‘HaBayit B’Guy’ (The House in the Valley)

The House in the Valley/HaBayit B’Guy:  In the summer of 2019, the Elad Foundation opened a café in the Palestinian Abu Tor neighborhood and held  live performances there in collaboration with “Zappa” a chain of music venues.  The venue is becoming a focal point for the development in the valley with the ‘gardening orders’ and the suspension bridge serving it and making it accessible to pedestrians.

Projects in advanced planning stages in the Peace Forest:

The Longest Zipline in the Middle East:  At the beginning of 2018, the Jerusalem Municipality issued a permit for building a zipline almost 800 meters  long from the Haas-Sherover Promenade to the Elad Foundation’s tourism complex in the Peace Forest.  The zipline, which will become a blemish on the forest skyline, met with opposition on the part of the Jewish National Fund and as a result, the National Council for Planning and Building changed the zoning of the area so that it is no longer defined as a forest.

A Tourist Complex in Jabal Mukaber:  A structure called the Shatz House, which belongs to Elad, is undergoing renovations to turn it into a tourism compound which will serve as the starting point for the  zipline. The zipline  will be visible from the Haas-Sherover Promenade and the Peace Forest in Abu Tor.  The Ministry of Tourism and the Jerusalem Municipality have invested 43 million ILS, more than 90% of the necessary investment.  The remainder is provided by Elad.

Tourism Complex in the Peace Forest:

The Ministry of Tourism financed the building of camping grounds at the cost of three million ILS in the Peace Forest and charged the Elad Foundation with running it.

Conclusions:

Due to their location between the East and the West, Jerusalemites do not frequent the open areas along the Green Line.  What began a decade ago as a slow process of establishing a presence in a number of specific sites,  has in in recent years, developed into a substantial initiative by Elad to reshape the identity of the green areas along the seam.

The changes to the sites attest to the fact that it is neither heritage nor preservation of antiquities and the public space that is the chief priority of the entities operating in the area, but rather political interests, where the ends justify the means.  The development plans are intended to strengthen Israeli presence, exclude Palestinians from the area and eliminate the  the Green Line, both physically and psychologically.

For the full Report click here