Building projects at the entrance to Jerusalem

Jerusalem has plans to transform itself. A building project at the entrance to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv – the Jerusalem Gateway – began in July 2019. “The location and features will help us to bring new jobs to the city. More office space will mean more businesses, whether its lawyers, bankers, or high-tech,” said Ofer Berkovitch, a member of the city’s planning and construction committee.

The Jerusalem Gateway commercial project creates a new business center in Jerusalem next to the city’s transportation hub – the city’s central bus station, the terminal of the high-speed rail line from Tel Aviv, and the cross-city light rail line. The new construction is also within walking distance to government buildings.

The 74-acre project would include several towers, with some 1.5 million square meters of office and commercial space, some 2,000 hotel rooms, and underground parking for 1,300 cars.

The Jerusalem Gateway commercial center is expected to create new jobs in Jerusalem, especially professional jobs, when the construction is complete. The project is part of the city’s overall plan to keep its younger, well-trained population from migrating elsewhere in Israel. Jerusalem has already had a technical college for some time.

The population of the Jerusalem metropolitan area about one million people. Many work elsewhere in Israel because of a lack of jobs in Jerusalem. When opened toward the end of 2023, the new Jerusalem highway 16 entrance to the city will help to relieve enormous traffic jams at the Jerusalem Gateway. Meanwhile, traffic flow is expected to become even more snarled during construction of the gateway commercial project.

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Sources:

Jerusalem Under Construction,” CTech, December 6, 2018.
CTech is an English-language technology news site by Calcalist (Hebrew), Israel’s leading financial daily.

Building projects at entrance to Jerusalem means real growth (and some growing pains),” Jewish News Syndicate (JNS), June 25, 2019.

3 years of jams expected as Jerusalem shuts main road near entrance,” The Times of Israel, July 14, 2019.

Construction work has begun on a new Jerusalem entrance road

The Jerusalem Post reports that a new five-kilometer highway that enters Jerusalem from the west reached the construction stage in 2019 (Jerusalem Post, November 11, 2019). This entrance is the second one into the city coming from the west – from Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion International Airport, and the rest of the Mediterranean coast.

Jerusalem’s new entrance road, designated Jerusalem Route 16, feeds traffic into southern Jerusalem. Drivers will bypass the congestion at the Jerusalem Gateway – Sha’ar HaIr – the long-time entranceway into Jerusalem from the west. In fact, this has been the only entranceway into the city from the west. This long-time entranceway has served the city’s Central Bus Station since British Mandate times. Most buses to and from Jerusalem still pass through this “Gate to the City.” Traffic through the Jerusalem Gateway also reaches the city’s convention center as well as government buildings such as the Knesset and the Supreme Court. This traffic won’t be using the new entrance road. Also, the Jerusalem Gateway will continue to serve the city center and the Old City.

A number of years ago, a northern bypass road was built. Besides bypassing east and west the heart of Jerusalem, it serves as a direct entrance to northern Jerusalem. Consequently, the Jerusalem Gateway entrance enjoyed some relief.

Jerusalem’s new entrance road will tunnel under two hilltop neighborhoods and will have three interchanges to serve southern and southwestern Jerusalem. The entrance road is expected to open for traffic toward the end of 2022. The planning stage began in 2001.

JerusalemRoad16BlogLrg

Demise of the U.S. Consulate General to Jerusalem after 174 years

On October 18, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the merger of the U.S. Consulate General to Jerusalem with its Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem.

Citing significant efficiencies and increased effectiveness, Pompeo said that a full range of reporting, outreach, and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem will be conducted through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the U.S. Embassy.

Pompeo added that this action does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip. “As the President proclaimed in December of last year, the United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.”

The Consulate General to Jerusalem was established as an independent mission in 1844. Since 1912, it has operated out of a complex on Agron Street in western Jerusalem not far from its earliest location in the Old City.

The U.S. State Department built a contemporary annex in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood. Although styled as an annex, this new campus is larger than the facilities on Agron Street.

In May 2018, the U.S. Embassy to Israel began operations on a small scale in the Arnona annex.

The Palestinian Legislative Council: moving closer to Jerusalem

“How can we reach Jerusalem?” So asked Ahmad Qurei (Abu Alaa), former Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) and earlier (1993) the director of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR).

In his capacity as director of PECDAR and using funds from a Japanese grant, Qurei acquired land for the new offices of the Economic Ministry from a charitable trust. The parcel was supposedly in the village of Abu Dis, certainly closer to Jerusalem than the city of Ramallah. “Abu Dis is a village that belongs to Jerusalem,” explained Qurei. But, Qurei had actually chosen a location mostly within the Jerusalem municipal boundary, with Abu Dis to the east.

In an interview for Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR; see “Assembling Voices“), Qurei continued, “There is no Palestine without Jerusalem … I told [Yasser Arafat] that he was the only one that could create the necessary conditions. If he came closer to Jerusalem, he could create the conditions … his dream and hope was Jerusalem. If he could not reach Jerusalem, he would not have achieved anything.” The city of Ramallah, headquarters of the PA, is closer to Jerusalem, but not close enough.

So, Arafat’s strategy was to first move closer to Jerusalem. “The closer we come to Al Quds (Jerusalem) the closer we come to our national rights,” Qurei asserted.

Qurei hired an architect and began the construction project. Construction caught the attention of Israel’s then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In a meeting with Arafat, Rabin wanted to know what the building was. Arafat answered that it was not for him. It was for Qurei. Qurei then claimed that the building was to be his own house, a building for himself, but it could be used for the government. Rabin insisted that the construction was not permitted. He said that it was a serious matter for Israel. Qurei also received pushback from the military and from a couple of Israeli organizations (Ateret Cohanim and Elad). Nonetheless, the ministry building was finished.

“Arafat’s dream, as President of the Palestinian National Authority, was to visit the new building, to stay for several hours,” said Qurei. For Arafat’s sake, the eastern room has a view of the Haram ash-Sharif and the Al Aksa Mosque through a wide window.

About the same time, Qurei was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council – the PA’s parliament. Qurei asked the architect to add a hall for the parliament.

However, the parliament building is still incomplete and unusable because the PA does not have full autonomy in Abu Dis where the entry is.

Looking back, Qurei viewed the building as temporary. Jerusalem as it was before 1967 was going to be the capital of the Palestinian state. Nothing less would be acceptable.

Even so, the building in Abu Dis is closer to Jerusalem than Ramallah. Asked Qurei, “Isn’t that coming closer to Jerusalem?”
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DAAR interviewed three Palestinians who objected to a center of governance that excludes Palestinians wherever they are. They voiced the spirit of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence: “The State of Palestine is the state of Palestinians wherever they may be.”

The Palestinian National Council (PNC), they explain, is the true parliament of the Palestinian nation. The PNC (an arm of the PLO – Palestine Liberation Organization) still meets outside of Israel so that all its members can attend.

On the other hand, the local Legislative Council for the West Bank and Gaza is not sovereign, so how can it decide where to have a capital?

Fajr Harb, activist, objected that “politically the location is problematic” and that it represents the end result of the Oslo Accords. The legislature of the PA does not articulate the common ground and collective fate of Palestinians. It could be regarded not as a parliament but more like a municipality’s council, said Harb.
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See a photo, a map and an aerial view (from DAAR). The Guardian also covered the subject of the legislative building.

Tea and Sympathy

This time of year is when I began a pivotal life journey in 1971. I left my Chicago home for a junior year abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Let me sit back to reminisce over a cup of hot tea with sugar.

My Bubbe Fischer * had passed away a short time before, on 29 Tammuz. It was then almost three weeks later.*

To proceed to my arrival in Israel, I was hosted by residents of the village Kfar Chabad on the first night when I arrived. A distinguished seatmate on my overseas flight invited me to a relative’s home. As interesting as this is, it warrants an entire account on its own.

Before I left Kfar Chabad, a resident gave me a pair of tefillin. I have been putting on tefillin ever since.

On the next afternoon, I reached Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. From there I was supposed to go to the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University where I would be staying.

Virtually everything that I owned was loaded into an unwieldy duffel bag. In my stubbornness, I was determined to walk by following my tourist map. I refused to admit that I needed help finding a bus. Besides this, I was too stubborn to admit that I was barely able to carry the bag. (It would still be some time before I saw anyone wheeling a bag along.)

I remember the salt of sweat in my eyes and how my muscles were growing more and more tired. Shuffle along in the summer sun and rest. Shuffle along and rest. I don’t remember any more of that day.

We began the summer ulpan * the next day. The university placed me in the most advanced level of the ulpan because I had studied enough Hebrew, actually from fourth grade on. All students from abroad would receive instruction in Hebrew to help us begin the academic year.

I recall studying a modern Hebrew poem about teh v’sympatia – “tea and sympathy.” I lost interest in the course since we were learning Hebraicized Greek words that had also found their way into English. What is the Hebrew word for ‘sympathy’ anyway?

Our dormitories were surrounded by a lush lawn. We could have been in any university surroundings. The path to the university’s front gate and bus stop was wooded, and it skirted the botanic garden. I regret not having visited the garden, but thirty-two years later I would visit the university’s botanic garden on Mount Scopus.

I attended services on Shabbat – Friday night and Saturday – in the campus synagogue. They called me up to the Torah * on a regular basis. I don’t remember the Shabbat meals except for the light Shabbat third meal. We all sat in the synagogue to eat and sing. Where did we eat on Friday night or on Saturday noon?

My cup of tea has run dry as have my reminisces. I’m looking forward to another cup later on.
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* Zeide – grandpa
* Bubbe – grandma; Bubbe Fischer was my mother’s mother.
* three weeks later – June/July
* ulpan – study of the Hebrew language
* called me up to the Torah – to say the blessings before and after the weekly Torah reading.

Basic Law- Jerusalem- Capital of Israel

(Unofficial translation, 30 July 1980)

Jerusalem, Capital of Israel 1. Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.
Seat of the President, the Knesset, the Government
and the Supreme Court
2. Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court.
Protection of Holy Places 3. The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings towards those places.
Development of Jerusalem 4. (a) The Government shall provide for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem and the well-being of its inhabitants by allocating special funds, including a special annual grant to the Municipality of Jerusalem (Capital City Grant) with the approval of the Finance Committee of the Knesset.

(b) Jerusalem shall be given special priority in the activities of the authorities of the State so as to further its development in economic and other matters.

(c) The Government shall set up a special body or special bodies for the implementation of this section.


MENAHEM BEGIN
Prime Minister

YITZCHAK NAVON
President of the State
* Passed by the Knesset on the 17th Av, 5740 (30th July, 1980) and published in Sefer Ha-Chukkim No. 980 of the 23rd Av, 5740 (5th August, 1980), p. 186; the Bill and an Explanatory Note were published in Hatza’ot Chok No. 1464 of 5740, p. 287.


Original web pages from The Knesset and from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.