New 9000-Unit Chareidi Neighborhood Approved At Atarot On Jerusalem’s Northern Perimeter

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JERUSALEM — The Jerusalem City Council’s Planning and Building Committee authorized Wednesday a plan for a new neighborhood which is slated to house tens of thousands of chareidi Jews at Atarot, an abandoned airport at the northern perimeter of Jerusalem. The city’s support is the initial step forward for the plan, which is due to be reviewed by the District Committee for Planning and Building on December 6.

The airport, which was the first airport in the British Mandate in 1924, was included in the Jerusalem municipal borders after 1967 and declared a part of Israel under the Jerusalem Law in 1981. However after the breakout of the Second Intifada in 2000, the airport was closed to all air traffic.

The new plan includes the construction of 9,000 housing units over 1,243 dunams (307 acres) of land. The plan still requires approval of the political echelon, which has stalled the plan for a long time due to international pressure. The site is adjacent to the Palestinian neighborhoods of Kalandia but is also close to the Atarot industrial zone and the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Yaakov.

An Israeli government official said the project is in the early stages of planning, and that it will likely be years before it comes up for government approval.

“Jerusalem is a living, breathing, growing capital city of the state of Israel,” Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said. “The housing project will provide thousands of much-needed housing units.”

Ofer Berkowitz, chairman of the municipal opposition, welcomed the move, calling it a “historic permit for construction in Jerusalem.”

“There was a huge pessimism at the beginning of the road that we would not be able to bring about the establishment of the neighborhood, but here it happened today,” he said.

The municipality is also promoting the Givat Hamatos project in the south of Jerusalem adjacent to Gilo and Beit Tzafafa. Both projects have met with significant opposition from previous American administrations, due to their strategic locations in places which would create a Jewish contiguity and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian contiguity from the north to the south of Jerusalem. Similar criticism has been voiced regarding the E1 neighborhood east of Jerusalem, which is being discussed by a military body, which maintains jurisdiction on Judea and Samaria. The neighborhood would effectively prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Another project recently approved would see an addition of 470 homes in Pisgat Ze’ev, a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has criticized settlement construction as an obstacle to eventually reviving the long-moribund peace process but has not demanded a freeze. Israel deems the entire area of greater Jerusalem as part of Israel based on the 1981 law , but has yet to receive recognition from most of the international community, despite the fact that new Jewish neighborhoods constructed in East Jerusalem now house  300,000 of the capital’s Jewish residents.

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