In 2004, the residents of al-Isawiyyah, together with Bimkom, began preparing a new outline plan for their neighborhood. The aim of the plan was to enable development, halt home demolitions and ensure a better future for the residents. A few months later, the residents of at-Tur also began drafting a plan for their neighborhood.
Shortly afterward the National Parks Authority (NPA) introduced its intentions to develop a national park on all the vacant land between these two Palestinian neighborhoods.
During the many ensuing meetings between the planners for al-Isawiyyah and the NPA planners, it was clearly stated that the objective of the national park was to curb the expansion of these neighborhoods to the adjacent open spaces. As time went on, this argument dissipated and other justifications were presented, such as the potential “scenic experience” and supposed archeological considerations.
The plan for the national park was initially deposited for public review in 2011. However, the process was successfully frozen by residents for more than a year by appealing to the court and demanding that the plan be translated into Arabic.
The many objections were eventually filed in April 2013, but the hearing was not scheduled for months afterward. During this time, the new Environment Minister, Amir Peretz, made a clear statement against the plan.
In early November 2013, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior decided to expedite the approval of the controversial plan; a decision which correlated with the second round of release of Palestinian prisoners per Kerry’s efforts. Thus, the hearing of the objections was held on November 14, 2013.
Many residents – men, women and children – attended the long, arduous hearing. Nonetheless, the plan was approved late the same night, with a symbolic and insufficient change to its borders on the al-Isawiyyah side.
In response, the residents requested, and received the right to appeal to the National Planning and Building Council (read English translation of the appeal) and on September 10th, 2014, the National Planning and Building Council put the plan on hold until the needs of al-Isawiyyah and at-Tur are assessed.
Click here to read our briefing on the Mt. Scopus National Park Plan