The City of Jerusalem rammed through a plan to build a 103,495 square foot 12-story building for Ohr Somayach, an iconic ba’al teshuva yeshiva, on a vacant plot of land in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem – even the city’s own professional planning staff strongly opposed the project.
Despite Strong Opposition, Ohr Somayach Given Permission To Build New 103,495 Square Foot 12-Story Haredi Ba’al Teshuva Yeshiva In East Jerusalem
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The City of Jerusalem rammed through a plan to build a 103,495 square foot 12-story building for Ohr Somayach, an iconic ba’al teshuva yeshiva, on a vacant plot of land in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem – even the city’s own professional planning staff strongly opposed the project, Ha’aretz reported.
The city’s planning staff insisted that a haredi yeshiva is not the “optimal use” for the land, which is surrounded by a population that has “different religious characteristics” – meaning the yeshiva will be surrounded by Muslims (and some Christians) in an area that is a tinderbox for extremist tension between Muslims and Jews – and which borders hotels and light rail.
And, the city’s professional planners also said, the project will not meet the needs of Sheikh Jarrah’s existent population, is opposed by many of those local residents (who now may become violent), and will certainly be opposed by the US and many European countries.
This opposition and US Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to the region reportedly caused the city to abruptly cancel last month’s planning board meeting where the Ohr Somayach plan was to be discussed.
But Kerry has come and gone and rightest secular Mayor Nir Barkat and his government put the Ohr Somayach project on the agenda of the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee’s Wednesday meeting and then pushed it though on a hotly contested a 4-3 vote.
Ohr Somayach is an Ashkenazi haredi ba’al teshuva yeshiva founded in the 1960s. It has close ties to the iconic nearby Ashkenazi haredi Mirrer Yeshiva, the largest yeshiva of any type in the world.
Ohr Somayach reportedly wants to build the behemoth structure on an empty lot, most of which is currently owned by the Israel Lands Authority, located adjacent to a gas station. The new building will have nine above ground stories and three more stories underground.
In recent years, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has become a major symbol of Palestinian opposition to Israeli expansion in East Jerusalem on one hand and Israeli Jews’ property rights on the other.
Several Palestinian families have been evicted from their Sheikh Jarrah homes, and approximately 10 Palestinian families are currently fighting legal battles to block or reverse eviction orders that were reportedly issued by the government at the request of Jewish building and land owners.
However, those Jewish building and land owners are often the heirs of Jews who lived in Sheikh Jarrah before the 1948 War of Independence but who were forced to flee advancing Jordanian troops, snipers and shelling.
Sheikh Jarrah remained under Jordanian control from May of 1948 until the Six Day War in June 1967, when it was captured by Israel.
Most of Ohr Somayach’s students are newly Orthodox college age Jews who come from the US, England, Canada, South Africa and other Diaspora countries to study in Jerusalem. Along with its main campus in the city, Ohr Somayach has 11 branches scattered throughout the Diaspora.
[Hat Tip: DK.]