May - July 2000


Jerusalem Settlement Update Report*



* Unless otherwise indicated, the following information is compiled from the reports of the Orient House - Maps and Water Center and Arab Studies Society - Land Research Center.


·        Before 1948, Jewish residents in what is currently defined as East Jerusalem numbered approximately 3,000[1] and owned only 3% of East Jerusalem property before 1948.[2]

·        The number of Jewish settlers in occupied East Jerusalem currently totals over 180,000.

·        Palestinian Jerusalemites are currently prevented from using more than 86% of the land in Occupied East Jerusalem and, except for a limited amount of use by Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, are prohibited from using any land in West Jerusalem.[3]  On the other hand, the Israeli Government has built 15 illegal settlements and has seized numerous individual properties on approximately 35% of Occupied East Jerusalem.

·        As Israel, by policy, restricts the release of building permits, about one third of the Palestinian houses in Jerusalem are built without permits and are thus threatened with demolition.


The Occupied City of Jerusalem has witnessed an increasingly aggressive campaign by the occupation forces aimed at prejudicing the status of Jerusalem by limiting Palestinian development and propagating Israeli settlements.  These creations of "facts on the ground" continue to create obstacles for peace and foster anxiety in the Palestinian people.  



New Israeli Settlement Activity in Jerusalem


The Light Train Project


In February 2000, the Israeli Ministry of Transportation authorized the establishment of a new train station and train rails connecting Jewish population centers between East and West Jerusalem.  The initial groundwork for this new project has already begun and is expected to be concluded by February 2001.


The railway is planned to start at the illegal settlement of Kiryat Yofeil, located five kilometers away from the center of the city. The line would then proceed through Jaffa road to Damascus Gate, crisscross Road No. 1 through a tunnel under the Notre Dame Church, reaching the northern part of East Jerusalem in Sheikh Jarrah and Shu'fat, to end at the unfinished Palace of King Hussein next to the intersection of Road No. 12.


Several international companies are currently bidding on the tenders issued by the Israeli Government for the construction of the new light train. So far, five European investors, including three German conglomerates, have begun to bid on the Israeli tenders.[4]  More recently, the Canadian transport company, Bombardier International, along with Holland's HTM and other Israeli companies, stated that they plan to invest $1.2 billion in the tram project.[5]


The light train project jeapordizes prospects for peace in Jerusalem for several reasons.  Firstly, the train is being built on expropriated Palestinian property and, like by-pass roads, will also divide Palestinian neighborhoods, preventing any expansion or contiguity of Palestinian communities. Secondly, the design of the Israeli light train project indicates that it is being built to create a stronger physical link between illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli neighborhoods in West Jerusalem.  Thus, serving only the Jewish population and consolidating Israeli control over Jerusalem.


East Gate Settlement Complex


On 23 April 2000, Israeli occupying forces tore down 10 one room structures in Essawiyah, including three that had just been rebuilt after an earlier demolition the week prior. Twenty-one tents, with all family possessions inside, were also demolished along with a water reservoir.[6]


The forceful eviction of Palestinian owners from this area comes within the context of the Israeli initiative to keep the area clear for the construction of a new industrial or "high tech" zone, complete with gardens, parks and a residential area for approximately 2,000 Jewish settlers.


The so called "East Gate" will create a link between the French Hill settlement in the south with Pisgat Omer settlement in the north and E-1 Plan in the East.  This continues the southern bound extension of a contiguous settlement wall which starts at Neve Ya'acov. 


To date, Israeli authorities have expropriated 2,500 dunums of Palestinian land belonging to the villages of Al Essawiyah, Al Tor, Anata, and Shu'fat to make room for East Gate.  As exemplified above, Palestinian residents in this area are subject to frequent house demolitions, severe restrictions on building permits and other forms of harassment.


Jabal Abu Ghneim Settlement ("Har Homa")


On 12 May 2000, the Israeli Housing Ministry issued new tenders for the construction of 600 housing units for the southern "Har Homa" settlement on Jabal Abu Ghneim.  This latest tender brings the number of tenders issued to 1,625.  The Israeli Government plans to install a total of 6,500 living units on the expropriated Palestinian land north of Bethlehem.[7]


Old City


During the past month, Jewish extremist groups have increased their attempts to access the Haram al-Sharif resulting in several clashes between the extremists and Muslim Waqf authorities.  The latest occurred on July 25, when one Jewish extremist group, Kach, attempted to access the Haram al-Sharif in an attempt to place an Israeli flag on the Dome of the Rock.  The group was stopped by Waqf authorities.


Also, religious Jews have continued to their presence at Rabat El-Kurd near the Iron Gate of the Haram al Sharif, claiming that the area is a smaller version of the Western Wall ("Kotel Katan").  The Rabat El-Kurd is a small courtyard where an area of the supporting wall to the Haram al-Sharif is exposed.  Although the area is owned by the Muslim Waqf and the courtyard is the only entrance for several Palestinian families to enter their property, observant Jews are claiming the courtyard should be transformed into a Jewish religious site.  The Palestinian families living in Rabat El-Kurd as well as Waqf officials are also very concerned as the continued Israeli tunneling under the Muslim Quarter has caused numerous cracks in the foundation of historic buildings.


There are currently over 400 Israeli security cameras installed in the Palestinian areas of the Old City.[8]  The cameras are a violation of the residents right to privacy and many residents have complained of the lack of privacy as well as the feeling that they are constantly being observed.


Also in the Old City, Jewish settlers have continued to attempt illicit property seizures. On 30 May 2000, Ultra Orthodox Jewish groups attacked a 70 year old Palestinian woman named Ruhaifa Al-Salameh and her two daughters when they tried to prevent the colonists from seizing their apartment in the Old City.


New Israeli Hotels


On Tuesday June 13 2000, Israeli occupation authorities demolished a 260 meter square home on Jabal Al Mukabber.  The home belonged to 34 year-old Hamza Ahmad Mohammad Al Maghribi of Jerusalem.[9]  The Al Maghribi family was given one half hour before being forced to evacuate by Israeli border guards and police.


The home demolition comes in the wake of Israeli authorization to begin construction of five huge hotels behind the UN Headquarters in Jabal Al Mukabber south of the Old City Jerusalem.  The Israeli plan has declared the lands surrounding the proposed hotels to become Nature Reserves, ostensibly to preserve the view of the Old City from the hotels.


The five hotels, with a total of 3000 hotel rooms, will be built on land that formerly comprised the demilitarized zone between 1948 and 1967.  The Israeli Government has progressively filled in this land with Israeli settlements and infrastructure since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.  Other projects that have "closed" the former demilitarized zone include, Route #1 and the residential area named the Village of David below Mamilla.


Forced Eviction in Hebrew University


On 14 May 2000, the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem, on the initiative of the Administration of Hebrew University, issued a demolition order against the Aqel family living in Sheikh Jarrah near the University Campus.  The family of eight were given 24 hours to demolish their own home, under the pretext that the house was built without a permit.


The Aqel Family built their small cluster of houses after being forcefully evicted from Lifta Village (West Jerusalem) in 1948.  The family managed to remain on their property despite the fact that their seven dunums of property were confiscated on 1 January 1968 and an eviction order remained outstanding since 17 December 1973.


To date, neither Hebrew University nor the Israeli authorities have been able to implement the orders due to popular mobilization of the Palestinian, student and international community.  However, the eviction order remains outstanding and could be implemented at any time.


Erasing Lifta Village


Israeli authorities have given authorization (Plan #6036) to build a new Jewish neighborhood / resort area on the lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Lifta. Before 1948, Lifta village was located northwest of Jerusalem on the road linking the city to Jaffa and was surrounded by the villages of Ein Karem, Al Malha, Deir Yaseen, Qaloonia, Beit Iksa, Beit Hanina, and Shua’fat area.  The Lifta area covers 8,743 dunums and hosted approximately 2,550 residents living in 420 houses.  Today, the total number of Liftian refugees, many whom still carry the keys to their house, now exceeds 26,000.


The new Israeli neighborhood is specially designed to host wealthy Jews from the United States.[10] The planning scheme of the new neighborhood calls for the construction of 230 villas in addition to a resort, a mall, the renovation of 55 of the Palestinian homes and a museum.  The reaction of Liftians to the new Israeli project was one of outrage as it will entail the destruction of not only 200 vactated home but will erase the remaining houses which  "stand witness to the Israeli crimes committed against the population of the village since 1948."



New Israeli Settlement Activity in the Immediate Environs of Jerusalem


Although not in Israeli Municipal Jerusalem, the expansion of settlements in the immediate environs of Jerusalem will effect the future status of Jerusalem.  Key settlements that continue to expand in the environs of Jerusalem include Givat Ze'ev and the Ma'aleh Adumim settler block.


Abu Dis ("Kidmat Zion" Settlement)


On June 7, a group of right-wing MKs (from Likud, NRP, National Union and Shas) and Jerusalem Yeshiva students erected a barbed wire fence and planted olive tree saplings on confiscated property in Abu Dis. The fenced-off area contains 15 of the 64 dunums on which the Municipality of Jerusalem approved the construction of a new settlement named "Kidmat Zion".[11]


The 64 dunum settlement was endorsed by the Israeli Housing Ministry on 22 May 2000 in a vote of 7 to 1.  The new settlement would provide 200 housing units to Jewish settlers.


Ma'aleh Adumim Settlement


On 5 May 2000, Israeli authorities prepared a new tender for a large building on an area estimated at 11.7 dunums in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, close to Ma'ale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem.[12] 


This latest plan is another step to fill in the vast territory allotted to the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement which has expanded its planning area to cover 47 square kilometers, only four square kilometers less than Tel Aviv.



By-Pass Roads


Road No. 12


Part of by-pass road No. 12 is now complete. The road is now used to connect the settlement of Reches Shu'afat with the settlements of Neve Yacoov and Pisgat Ze'ev. When complete, the new by-pass road will divide Palestinian neighborhoods and prevent both contiguity and development in Palestinian neighborhoods. 


The effect of the new by-pass road is especially serious as the width of the road is approximately 80 meters with a "no-construction zone" of 150 meters on either side of the road.


Road No. 820


Israeli heavy machinery bulldozed hundreds of dunums of land in Abu Dis village, in an attempt to open a by-pass road linking the colonies of Qedar and Ma'ale Adumim.  The new by pass road was originally approved by the Israeli Civil Administration on 11 June 1999 and is an attempt to gain contiguity between the two illegal settlements, both of which will eventually expand to join together.


Route No. 16


The construction of the 2.8 km Route No. 16, which will connect the Ma'ale Adumim settlement with the Ramat Eshkol settlement continues to burrow its way under the Mount of Olives.  Besides the confiscation of 52 dunums of Palestinian land, Route No. 16 has claimed the 150 year old Al Shahabi Palace which was destroyed on 9 September 1999.

[1] 1,700 Jews lived in the Jewish Quarter in early 1948; Ataror and Neve Ya'acov both had 200 Jewish residents each. See Meron Benvenisiti, The Torn City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1976), p. 113.

[2] 5 dunums in the Jewish Quarter, approximately 100 dunums for Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University compounds on Mt. Scopus, 500 dunums for the Atarot settlement, 489 dunums for the Neve Yaacov settlement. See Jewish Settlement in Palestine, Jewish National Fund Head Office, Jerusalem (March 1948), pp. 2 and 52

[3] Confiscated property, lands declared as "green area," lands reserved for public purposes and/or land held by the Israeli Land Administration are to be used exclusively for Jewish neighborhoods.

[4] Jerusalem Post, April 30 2000.

[5] Jerusalem Post, June 20 2000.

[6] LAW Press Release, 26 April 2000.

[7] Applied Research Institute Jerusalem, Monthly Report, May, Vol. 22.

[8] Security cameras are operated out of the Kishle Police Station near Jaffa Gate. See Tamar Hausman, "Police Surveillance cameras to keep peace in Jerusalem's Old City," The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2000.

[9] LAW Press Release, June 13 2000

[10] Yedeot Ahranot , February 22nd, 2000


[11] Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, June 8 2000.

[12] Applied Research Institute Jerusalem, Monthly Report, May, Vol. 22.