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      Arab Neighborhood Planned for Central Jerusalem

      A new Arab neighborhood is to be built on rare open space in the heart of Jerusalem, hundreds of illegal houses authorized.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 10/30/2011, 9:16 PM

      Kings Garden
      Kings Garden
      Israel news photo

      The city of Jerusalem has approved the construction of new Arab housing in one of the rare open spaces in the capital’s historic center. In addition, the city has given retroactive authorization to hundreds of illegally built homes.

      The area in question is located in the “King's Garden,” adjacent to Shiloach (Silwan) at the southern entrance to the Kidron Valley. It is mentioned by name in Jeremiah and the Book of Kings.

      Plans originally called for turning the area into a green park and preserving it as an historic treasure.

      The project faces objections from several sides. Local Arabs are not pleased with plans to add housing, but instead have furiously rioted over plans to demolish 22 of the hundreds of illegally built homes in the area.

      Environmentalist groups are protesting and calling to leave the area open in order to preserve green space. The unauthorized building in the area causes particular damage, the groups say, in the form of illegal garbage disposal and unauthorized dumping of sewage.

      “The city of Jerusalem is ignoring the natural world,” accused Yael Yisrael of Yarok Achshav (Green Now). “Instead of declaring the creation of a national preserve in the Nachal Kidron area… the city is approving illegal construction that destroying the environment.”

      “This shows disrespect for the Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem,” argued Yisrael. “They, too, deserve open public spaces, as required by law and as appear in the city plan.”