Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Iyar 5765 - May 11, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Planning Jerusalem's Future

by Betzalel Kahn

Today some 800,000 people live in Jerusalem and in another 15 years that number is expected to surpass the one million mark. The population is quite young—45 percent of residents are under the age of 19—meaning that another 65,000 housing units will be needed by the year 2020.

These are the dry facts behind the need to alter the master plan for the City of Jerusalem. The goal is to create a structured, uniform plan for the city with a look to the future and the desired character of the city 15 years from now. The plan places emphasis on open areas that will remain off limits for construction and the preservation of the Jerusalem skyline. The plan was initiated and closely supervised by Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky while he was still chairman of the Planning and Construction Committee (where he served for many years), City Engineer Uri Sheetrit, Municipality Director-General Eitan Meir, and Planning and Construction Committee Chairman Rabbi Yehoshua Pollak.

"The master plan is a sort of declaration of intentions," says Rabbi Pollak. "The old master plan, which was approved decades ago, determined where and what would be built, where public areas would be, how many stories would be built in each area. The reality has changed in recent years and there have been thousands of changes on the ground from what appears in the original master plan, which requires changing the plan and reformulating it for the coming 20 years."

Says Mayor Lupoliansky, "It is important for every city, particularly a city as complex and unique as Jerusalem, to have an orderly plan that reflects our vision regarding the structure of the city, both from a standpoint of landscape and open areas, high-rise construction, environmental quality and high-tech centers. I believe that from now on the future construction of Jerusalem will be orderly and clear to all and not according to an ad hoc plan. The plan can always be a base for changes, but changes cannot be a basis for the plan."

"The previous master plan was prepared in the 50s and approved in 1959," says City Engineer Uri Sheetrit. "The absence of a local, up-to-date master plan in a city where drastic changes were and are taking place came to the fore in an unprecedented number of pointed changes to the previous plan in contrast to every other city in Israel. Of course this is in addition to the fact that very large sections of the city added and built after 1967 were in no way included in the local master plan. Since the previous plan was approved, 12,000 alterations have been made to the plan. Now we have to plan anew."

Residents Take Part

The details of the new master plan may not be of keen interest to every Jerusalemite but still a significant number of people will be involved. The new City Building Plan will set regulations and parameters in every neighborhood for homeowners seeking to build onto their apartments, will allocate larger common areas as much as possible in neighborhoods designated for densification and expansion, and much more.

City planning and engineering officials are the most interested in the new master plan, although it will affect each and every resident, for everyone cares about something or other. There are some who have a lot to say on the issues of traffic and transportation, others are deeply concerned about the environment and still others worry that high-rise building will ruin their view. Everyone, it seems, has comments and suggestions—and grievances.

Several months ago the municipality presented the new master plan for Jerusalem to the public. Hundreds of residents came to the event, held at a hall in the downtown area. Mayor Rabbi Lupoliansky and Deputy Mayor Rabbi Pollak presented the plan. Raffi Dovra, chairman of the Committee for Public Cooperation in the Jerusalem Master Plan, and City Engineer Uri Sheetrit who occupied a central role in the planning committee, provided additional information, fielded questions.

The very existence of the event was significant, for it indicated that the City was including residents in the final process. Rabbi Pollak said that within one year the final plan would be approved in the local and district planning committees, making it the operative plan for the next two decades.

The master plan will add three large parks stretching over 10,000 dunams (2,500 acres) and Jerusalem will be surrounded by green belts with shoots of green wadis penetrating inward: Park Refa'im to the south, Emek Ha'arazim and Shorek to the north and Arugot and Kadron to the East. The plan also calls for developing the downtown area, including high-rise buildings and an industrial strip.

In addition, the plan alters the traffic pattern the municipality has been laboring over for long months, including the light-rail lines, a road circumscribing the city (beltway) and Highway 16, which is slated to connect Motza with Tzomet Pat. To gain an understanding of the importance of the plan, in terms of urban traffic, just take a glance at the existing routes in central Jerusalem, which can accommodate a city of 300,000 residents, but do not meet the needs of the actual population of 800,000.

The plan for residential construction calls for adding two floors to existing buildings, new neighborhoods in West Jerusalem and a densification plan inside and alongside existing neighborhoods. The plan sets tight restrictions on construction near the Old City, which the United Nations has designated as a world heritage site. The prohibition includes a few kilometers of space overlooking the Old City.

The new master plan permits buildings up to 24 stories tall, primarily in the downtown area. The municipality notes that this clause does not constitute an automatic building permit for prospective builders. Rather, entrepreneurs who want to build an office tower will have to submit a plan to the local and district planning and construction committees, to include residents in the decision-making process and to undergo a public review process like every other construction plan.

The History of the Master Plans

The upcoming master plan will be the city's fourth. The first was formulated after the founding of the State, long before the annexation of various areas in the Six-Day War. In 1959 a second master plan was approved and after the Six-Day War a third plan was made but never approved due to political wrangles. Several years later, in 1978, a fourth master plan was drawn up but once again never received the approval of the planning committees. The current master plan is based on the two plans approved in the early years of the State.

"The expansion of the borders of the city in several phases requires us to prepare partial master plans for the city's new areas," says a municipality spokesman, who says all of the partial plans incorporate the directives of the abridged master plan without comprehensive rethinking and, in many cases, adopting principles for construction and development set in previous approved plans from as far back as 1918.

Note: As a result of variations in the development phases of the last 100 years the buildings and areas of the city differ from one another in character and quality. Buildings in some parts of the city are of inferior quality and should be torn down to make better use of the space. On the other hand, numerous buildings and even entire neighborhoods should be preserved for their historical, architectural or cultural value. Areas designated for industry, e.g. parts of Givat Shaul, Talpiot and Romema, have evolved and the process of establishing facts on the ground by investors and localized planning have transformed them into office space, commercial areas or even residential areas. According to a municipality official, "As a result of unsupervised planning and development processes functionally anachronistic construction has been created, requiring inclusive thinking that takes into account the city's functional construction as a whole."

One Million Residents in Another Two Decades

Jerusalem extends over 126,000 dunams (about 30,000 acres). The official population is 700,00 but after adding to that number all the yeshiva and university students who are not local residents but study and live in the city, as well as thousands of Palestinians living in the city without residential permits, the actual population comes to approximately 800,000. According to estimates, today's 180,000 dwelling units will have to be nearly doubled over the next two decades to meet the demand, whether by replacing existing buildings, adding to existing neighborhoods or building whole new neighborhoods.

The national development plans anticipate the addition of many new residents to Jerusalem, including the annexation of extensive areas to the west of the city. The population forecasts and plans to expand westward require the development of various new transit systems and roads. Mass rail transit and the development of modern roads call for a comprehensive vision for the entire city. Therefore, the aim of the master plan is to develop a statutory framework for the continued development of the city as a metropolitan center while preserving the city's special attributes and ensuring urban quality of life for all residents.

"First and foremost, the plan calls for the construction of a skeletal structure that will support the city for the next several decades," writes Uri Sheetrit in his introduction to the report he submitted in advance of the discussions of the master plan in the planning committees. "The proposed plan restores the downtown to its rightful place as a center for businesses, commerce, culture and residences, after so many years of neglect and an absence of directed development. The Old City and its surrounding area, an international cultural and heritage asset, have been reinforced and the various parts have been redefined based on their unique characteristics and the chronological history that formed them throughout the generations."

Sheetrit notes that industrial elements received special attention, due to the social and economic differences in the city and due to the city's need to build from its special elements. "The plan gives each segment of the population the maximum in its own sphere. This is a mosaic and the special element in each part is accentuated and strengthened, keeping lines of friction as short and faint/subtle/muted/slight as possible. The plan translated the government's decisions and policy regarding the need to preserve a Jewish majority within the city's municipal boundaries (a ratio of 70 percent Jews to 30 percent Arabs)," writes Uri Sheetrit, stressing that "the plan does not view the continuous growth of the population in all of its elements as a threat, but a challenge to be met, primarily by creating a sufficient stock of quality residences able to compete with the periphery and with other parts of the State of Israel."

The work of preparing the master plan was carried out by Mr. Moshe Cohen, head of the planning team which has submitted four interim reports. In addition, there has been input from government ministries and various other bodies, primarily environmental groups and planning authorities in the Jerusalem area.

Increasing the Apartment Supply

In order to meet the plan's goals for the residential areas, on the scale demanded by the projected population growth, various options were assessed, including the best ways to add housing units (see sidebar).

The initial phase of the plan as it applies to residences calls for additional development of existing neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, the density of construction would be increased by adding more housing units on rebuilt lots, adding floors and wings, and buildings on stilts, etc. The authors of the plan suggest that the money that the residents earn from these additions should be funneled as much as possible toward improving and tending to the building lot and the appearance of the buildings.

On available lots designated for residences inside existing neighborhoods, building rights will be increased. In certain parts of the city, high-rise buildings will be permitted. Open areas will be improved through the addition of more open areas, boulevards, playgrounds and squares. Furthermore, access will be improved and areas of moderate traffic will be created to improve the quality of life for local residents.

According to city officials, the densification policy will not be implemented in already-crowded neighborhoods (e.g. Meah Shearim and the Old City). On the other hand, Romema, for example, where most of the space is now used for industrial facilities, will become a much denser residential neighborhood, with another 2,500 housing units. (On the planning maps, Romema will stretch from Givat Moshe to Rechov Hamem Gimmel, but the current plan speaks of an industrial area in the area remaining, surrounding Rechov Yirmiyahu.)

In addition, the housing supply will be increased by designating unutilized space for construction. City officials say that half of the municipal territory is not zoned for construction, but a portion of these areas constitute basic elements in the city structure. Locating developable unused lots is a long and complex process with numerous assessment phases. A total of 7,200 dunams (1,800 acres) have been located in the areas surrounding existing neighborhoods such as Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Sanhedria Murchevet and Gilo, and this space will be designated for residential construction.

Tens of Thousands of New Apartments

The master plan offers the possibility of extracting the maximal number of housing units from Jerusalem's various neighborhoods. For example, there are currently 8,886 dwelling units in Geulah. If additional stories are built and in-between spaces filled, the neighborhood could reach a total of 10,820 units. In the center of the city (all of the neighborhoods near Rechov Yaffo) there are 8,083 dwelling units, with a potential for 11,009. Bayit Vegan currently has 5,019 housing units. Without using the areas surrounding the neighborhood, that number could reach 7,795.

Ramat Shlomo has the potential to grow from 2,000 apartments to 2,658, Romema from 7,756 to 11,466, Ramot from 8,809 to 11,547, Har Nof from 3,318 to 4,137 and Givat Shaul from 3,955 to 4,637. All of these increases can be achieved without making use of the areas surrounding the respective neighborhoods. A quick calculation reveals that full use of increased density could bring at least 10,000-15,000 new apartments—and perhaps many more—into existing chareidi neighborhoods (not including mixed neighborhoods like the central area and the Jewish Quarter).

With the addition of the non-chareidi neighborhoods, the densification plan will increase the total number of housing units from 142,000 to 250,000 (in addition to an increase of 43,000 new apartments in East Jerusalem).

The most efficient way to add new dwelling space is to build up. The master plan permits the addition of two floors to every existing four-floor building. According to the planning team, "The development of existing residential lots are the most direct tool for the rehabilitation of the city's residential neighborhoods. Housing expansion, building renovation, developing adjoining areas and other functional solutions are a known and feasible means for upgrading the living conditions and quality of areas surrounding residential buildings.

"Adding apartments to existing residential lots encourages the entry of a new population into the neighborhoods themselves, expanding and revitalizing their communities. Denser construction and construction on residential lots in built areas is based on more intensive use of the city's built lots and greater use of existing infrastructures. Making built areas denser contributes to the preservation of land reserves for future development for the benefit [of city residents] and other purposes." They also note that the enhanced use of existing infrastructures decreases public spending on development.

Improving Centers of Employment and Industry

The new master plan for Jerusalem also addresses job sites. According to the planners' conception, the downtown area will be restored to its former status as a multifaceted center providing residents and visitors employment services, housing, tourism and commerce. Therefore, the plan prioritizes developing the city center over secondary centers that have developed in recent years, contributing to the decline of the downtown area by drawing away business activity.

The planning team believes the renewal of the downtown area must be accomplished through the creation of a major employment center combining offices, businesses, commerce, hotels, higher education and residences. The plan also calls for developing a mass transit system that would transform the downtown area into a center into which all of the peripheral commercial centers feed, building institutions that attract visitors such as government institutions and regional government ministries, building cultural institutions, creating quality open area for pedestrians, creating attractive streets and squares with landscaping; renovating and preserving buildings; and drawing residences to revitalize the city center by granting extensive building rights and abbreviating planning procedures.

Three types of industrial zones will continue to receive development priority: areas with factories located far away from the city center, areas combining commerce, offices and industry (e.g. Talpiot, Givat Shaul) and areas with high-tech facilities. "The goal of the means for the policy recommended for the development of these industrial areas is to allow their continued development in conjunction with the renewal process in the city center," write the authors of the master plan.

High-Rise Construction and Expanding Yeshivas

In the section of the master plan that discusses the form construction will take, the planning team members say that increasing building height should be recommended in every part of the city but should be based on the character of the area. In the Old City, for instance, add-on construction will be permitted up to the height of the outer walls. Building up to four floors high will be permitted in the area adjacent to the Old City. In a second ring around the Old City, building up to six floors high will be permitted. In the downtown area, buildings of up to 24 floors will be permitted, and near the point of entry to the city, buildings of up to 33 floors will be permitted. In all other neighborhoods, the maximum addition will be up to six floors.

The master plan also addresses at length "institutions and public services." For example it calls for a general plan for the chareidi, government and government-religious school systems, based on the model of the plan recently formulated for the Arab school system. Another plan will be needed to define the needs for city services and their layout.

The master plan states that rather than allocating further facilities, government offices should be returned to the city center. In addition, approximately 1,800 hospital beds should be added in the next 15 years, including two new 400-bed hospitals, one in the north and another in the south.

The master plan opposes designating land for botei knesses beyond what falls under the rubric of public lands, but they must be located in areas with chareidi and national-religious populations. "The continued development of the yeshivos gevohos should be encouraged, especially by boosting the percentage of construction in them and suitable land should be located for them in the `seam' area near the chareidi neighborhoods in the north of the city," reads the master plan.

In addition to the master plan, the City of Jerusalem commissioned the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Research to devise an overall plan for cultural institutions for the chareidi population. The institute's main preliminary conclusion speaks of a severe shortage of institutions and public facilities for cultural activities, both on the neighborhood and citywide level.

Easing Traffic and Improving Public Transportation

One of the central chapters of the master plan addresses transportation, roads and mass transit. The goal is to give significant priority to public transportation over private transportation, by creating a ring of roads on the east end of the city and another on the west end. The transportation system includes roads, light rail, city buses, public parking lots, public transportation centers, an interurban train station, Atarot Airport and helicopter landing pads—both existing and planned.

Planners favor a carrot-and-stick approach in order to implement the policy of prioritizing public transportation. The carrot is an efficient, convenient and reliable public transit system — and the stick is parking restrictions for private vehicles in crowded areas downtown and in industrial zones. In order to prevent commercial activity from drifting to the edge of the city and outside of the city, the planners are calling for an approach that combines both factors by creating park-and-ride facilities in places easily accessible to residential areas and by developing rapid public transit to the city center and industrial zones.

Later, all of the city's neighborhoods, including the chareidi neighborhoods, will be connected to the new transportation system on condition it proves to be readily available, reliable and provides assess to every part of the city.

The plan also calls for lengthening the runways at Atarot Airport, to transform it into an international airport capable of accommodating larger planes.


Another chapter of the master plan addresses tourism and visits to the Old City. The planning team notes that the preservation and development of tourist sites is a primary condition for promoting tourism, but creating accessibility within the framework of the fabric of the city is no less important and requires formulating a plan for tourist foot traffic and transportation. Therefore thematic tour routes will be designed, based on historical and religious ties.

The chapter on developing pedestrian areas contains a proposal to redesign the sidewalks and pathways to create integrated streets, remove obstacles and overhead infrastructures, place bus and train stops in places that will not block pedestrians, install uniform signs and plant trees suited to the neighborhood.

The chapter on neighborhood parks and playgrounds speaks of a minimum quota for open and public area. The planners say there is a lack of open space in areas inhabited by the chareidi and Arab sectors.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Housing Expansion

In recent years the City of Jerusalem has encouraged numerous housing expansion projects. There is no neighborhood in Jerusalem, especial in the chareidi neighborhoods, where dozens — and in some cases hundreds — of housing add-ons have been carried out. This policy began while Rabbi Lupoliansky was serving in his previous two terms as chairman of the Planning and Construction Committee and it continues today, now that he is in the mayor's office together with the present committee head, Rabbi Yehoshua Pollak. The master plan also addresses this issue of housing expansion, which the planners say has both pluses and minuses.

The advantages: More living space for small, crowded apartments; no payment for land value or improvement levies; an opportunity to improve the exterior of the building; and a strong, stable community.

The disadvantages: harm to buildings and neighborhood clusters designated for preservation; detracts from the quality of living and the surroundings by diminishing cultivated space; uproots trees; brings buildings closer to one another; detracts from the exterior of the building if the work is executed without supervision; significantly reduces the supply of smaller apartments, making it harder for young families to find housing.

Therefore, the master plan has recommended the following guidelines for housing expansion: defining areas in which housing expansion will be permitted in accordance with municipal priorities; preparing detailed plans for structures with similar physical characteristics; preliminary evaluations of the degree of consent on the part of the owners and tenants and architectural and engineering assessments of the viability of realizing the plan; simultaneous improvement of the engineering infrastructures; determining the location for housing expansion, with efforts to minimize damage to adjacent buildings; integrated execution of whole buildings; setting discounts for yard care, including planting trees and caring for objects standing in the yard.

In addition, they recommend setting up an apparatus in the Department for City Planning that would be responsible for planning, supervision, development and enforcement in the area of housing expansion.

The Goal: Demographic Preservation

A long chapter of the master plan deals with "population and society," and addresses the population forecasts for the coming years, centering on the failure to achieve the government's goal of making Jerusalem 70 percent Jewish and 30 percent Arab.

"The population forecast, like the forecasts prepared in other frameworks, indicate that this goal is unattainable and that the demographic trends operating since the end of the 60s distance Jerusalem from the objective that was set," reads the master plan. "It would be very reasonable to assume that if the demographic trends of the past few years continue without significant change, in 2020 only 60 percent of the entire population will be Jewish and 40 percent Arab, and even this is only on condition that housing discounts are carried out as a basis for the master plan."

In order to preserve a solid Jewish majority in the city, the master plan calls for a reduction in out-migration and efforts to attract residents from other parts of the country. "Toward this end, a sufficient supply of housing, both through densification of existing neighborhoods and construction of new neighborhoods, must be planned. Furthermore the construction of reasonably-priced residences is required in order to allow the city to compete with the housing prices in the suburbs, which are significantly lower than those in Jerusalem. In addition, there must be assurances of jobs and services of a sufficient quantity and quality, quality of life and a pleasant experience."

The planning team notes that until the 90s, suburban migration focused on the non-chareidi population. "The result was an increase in the portion of the chareidi population, especially in light of the high natural growth rates in this sector. The emergence of chareidi suburbs in recent years (Beit Shemesh, Beitar Illit, Modi'in Illit and Tel Tzion) brought about a certain deceleration in the growth of the chareidi population in Jerusalem. In addition there is now a severe housing crisis within the city's chareidi population. The plan proposes to make a portion of the chareidi neighborhoods denser, to build new chareidi neighborhoods alongside the existing ones and to build non-chareidi neighborhoods, in order to allow young chareidi couples to purchase apartments in the city as well."

An End to Squabbles Between Neighbors

"The plan will assist all residents in knowing how they can expand and improve their quality of life, both privately and in public areas," says Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky. "The plan creates order on various issues so that instead of holding discussions on every matter and wondering whether it fits with the City Building Plan there will be clear guidelines for all to follow. Obviously, in cases of development and expansion, through the plan it will be possible to improve housing, while until now every matter has meant taking out a special City Building Plan, which required years to receive approval. Nobody knew whether the City Building Plan would be approved, numerous plans got stuck and indeed, `there is no joy like resolving uncertainty.' "

The Mayor also says that the master plan will determine the boundaries of permissibility in construction and add-on construction, and the residents will be informed what the neighbors are permitted to build. "The plan will ensure that residents are not surprised by the neighbor's work on his home. Of course, this will also prevent quarrels between neighbors and a lack of repose when suddenly it is discovered that the neighbor is building an addition nobody anticipated. I hold that after 50 years, when we come and present a plan that takes the present facts into account and explains the future of the city, this is a piece of good news."

The plan will allow the addition of thousands of housing units in the areas surrounding the chareidi neighborhoods. "For six years we have been working on plans for the environs of the chareidi neighborhoods and possibly additions inside the neighborhoods. This offers numerous advantages over building new neighborhoods, because the public services already exist—botei knesses, mikvo'os, schools, playgrounds, infrastructures—and the addition of housing units in existing neighborhoods brings about a revival of the neighborhoods as well. After so many meetings and so much thought this is going from theory to practice."

Rabbi Yehoshua Pollak, deputy mayor and chairman of the Planning and Construction Committee, says, "We are doing our best to build as many chareidi neighborhoods as possible. Our plans are carried out through the densification of the neighborhoods and the construction of additions of thousands of housing units surrounding the neighborhoods—all based on supply and demand. Of course, good terms will be given to purchasers of apartments in Jerusalem and at the same time, if thousands more housing units are built in Jerusalem, young couples will be able to purchase apartments in Jerusalem much more easily and at lower prices and they will not be forced to drift to the periphery."

Mayor Lupoliansky: Tel Aviv becoming Jerusalem Suburb

At the Jerusalem Conference 2005 that was held recently, Jerusalem Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky said that Tel Aviv was becoming a suburb of Jerusalem. He was referring to the railway line between the two cities, and into Jerusalem. "In addition to Israel Railways, whose line to Jerusalem was reopened Saturday night, another, faster, line is being planned and built from the coastal plain to us, on which travel time will be 28 minutes."

Rabbi Lupoliansky said that Israel's capital was entering a period of prosperity and renewal. The past has vanished. "Only a few months ago, I spoke about the light at the end of the tunnel. This morning, I feel like someone who has just this minute emerged from the tunnel into daylight. The light of Jerusalem is now revealed in all its glory," he said.

According to the mayor, recent figures show that net immigration away from Jerusalem is slowing. He added that 55 percent of companies in Jerusalem had reported hiring staff, and 50 percent an increase in exports, and that tourist overnights were up 48 percent.

Rabbi Lupoliansky declared, "When I became mayor, I found a municipality with a large bureaucracy, a paucity of services, and a battered and bleeding city." He went on to say that the municipality was currently carrying out a comprehensive recovery plan, designed to achieve "less apparatus and more service to residents, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople." He concluded by saying, ". . . businesspeople and entrepreneurs are no longer disengaging from Jerusalem."


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