Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kibbutz in the heart (of the city)

Dafna Shemer

The borders of the city of Jerusalem underwent a significant change 50 years ago, in June 1967. Much has been written about that change, which led to additional population, territory, and numerous questions of legality and sovereignty being encompassed within the city limits.

However, a number of additional minor changes have been made to Jerusalem's boundaries over the years, the most recent of which was approved in September, 2016, by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, when a change was made in the border between Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and Jerusalem. The minister has the authority to alter the boundaries between local authorities, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee for Jurisdictional Boundaries.

This change included the transfer of about 69 acres (280 dunam) of Ramat Rachel's orchards to Jerusalem, and was effected despite the combined opposition of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council (within which Ramat Rachel is located), and the Ministry of Agriculture (because of the agricultural crops in this area). Those who didn't number among the opponents to the change were the green organizations: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and the Sustainable Jerusalem coalition. Although the source of the reasons for which the green organizations chose not to oppose the change is related to the Safdie Plan, the role of the Safdie Plan in this story is not only played out in the position taken by those organizations.

The Safdie Plan was created in response to Jerusalem's demographic needs. As part of the efforts to promote the plan and in order to meet the quota of missing land reserves, in 1993 the then Interior Minister (who was Aryeh Deri at that time as well), at the recommendation of the Committee for Jurisdictional Boundaries, decided to add territory to the city from the west: The Lavan Ridge, the Arazim Valley, and Mt. Herat. Included in this agreement were also the 79 acres (320 dunams) from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. This area is to the east of the Talpiot neighborhood and to the west of East Talpiot.

Over the years, Kibbutz Ramat Rachel benefited from this decision, since the land is still owned by the kibbutz (under lease), so a situation was created in which the area was transferred to the municipality of Jerusalem, but ownership remained with the kibbutz. As a result the kibbutz made handsome profits from the sale and rental of the housing units built in this area.
As time passed, the green organizations altered their strategy in their efforts to protect open spaces, and focused on protecting areas that are not located on an urban continuum but have value as natural sites.

While in 1993 it was agreed that there would be no further changes in the borders around Ramat Rachel, today, from an urban perspective, sectioning off additional parts of the kibbutz seems like a more logical option than other alternatives, and therefore the green organizations did not express opposition.

Ramat Rachel is an enclave within the Jerusalem city limits that were created in 1967. It is a kibbutz in an urban environment. As we have shown in this short review, this position has both positive and negative ramifications.


Translation: Gilah Kahn

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