A media event marked the launch of a construction project in Jerusalem that will bring together the Palestinian Authority, the Greek Orthodox Church, and Qatar.
On Monday, an event was held in the St. George Hotel in Jerusalem to announce the launch of a housing development project which is intended for the exclusive use of Arabs. The project includes 400 residential apartments and a commercial center. Named Lana (‘ours’ in Arabic), the neighborhood will be built in partnership by Massar International, a Ramallah-based corporation owned by the Palestinian Al-Masri family, in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The speakers at the press conference were Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Honorable Sheikh Azzam Khateeb, Head of the Islamic Waqf, Evangelos Vlioras, the Greek Consul General in Jerusalem, Hanna Ameireh and Issa Qassiessieh, representatives of the Presidential Committee on Churches’ Affairs.
The Patriarch spoke about the historic coexistence between the Christian and Muslim communities in Jerusalem. The Mufti of Jerusalem thanked God for “making us the guardians of Christian and Islamic sanctities,” adding that the Muslims “have life and aspirations in Jerusalem.” The Mufti concluded his speech with a bi-religious blessing:
“Blessed are these efforts, and we ask God more of them so that we attain our political, religious and social rights towards a secure life as it was during the days of Jesus, peace be upon him, and the days of the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, from Mecca to Jerusalem, and the days of the Omari covenant that is considered the basis of the common life between Muslims and Christians in this land.”
Bashar al-Masri, chairman of Massar International, said at the launch event that, like the company’s previous project, Rawabi, the new city of Lana would be built for Palestinians of high socioeconomic status, adding that the project’s estimated cost stood at one billion shekels and will pave the way for future projects.
Built as part of the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Lana is touted as “providing residences and integrated retail in an atmosphere of comfort, luxury, and elegance.” The site for Lana compared the new neighborhood to Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians built 12 miles north of Jerusalem. Rawabi was also built by Massar Intl. Construction on Rawabi was begun in 2010 and stands at 6,000 housing units intended to house a population of between 25,000 and 40,000 people.
By 2014, 650 family apartments housing an estimated 3,000 people had been completed and sold, but could not be occupied while negotiations over supplying the city with water stalled. The city remained without water; the delay was attributed to the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee, with Israelis blaming Palestinians for the delay and Palestinians blaming Israelis. Residents began moving into the apartments in 2015. By 2017, only 3,000 people were living in the city. There are no reports that the population of Rawabi has increased, indicating the city is at
The two projects were also built with the same sources of funding; the Palestinian Authority and the Qatari Investment Authority.
Jerusalem’s Planning Infrastructure Administration approved the project in 2019, whose first stage is 92 housing units. On September 2, another construction permit was granted to allow the Palestinians to immediately begin breaking ground. In the later stages, according to the construction plans, 400 homes will be built within Jerusalem’s municipal territory.
“Any Arab construction between Ramallah and Jerusalem will harm the unity of the city,” said Maor Tzemach, chairman of Lech Jerusalem. Only in this way will we put an end to the Palestinian dream of “the great al-Quds.”
Jerusalem City Council member Yonatan Yosef said: “As a member of the Planning and Building Committee, I am shocked that people who define themselves as Zionists are working against the Zion of the Holy City. I will do my best to thwart the dangerous plan for the future of the Jewish majority in Jerusalem.”
Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich lambasted the decision to allow the construction, tweeting, “This is what dividing Jerusalem looks like. Bennett is dividing Jerusalem.”
Fellow party member Ofir Sofer slammed the decision, saying, “This is Bennett’s voice, and [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid and [Health Minister Nitzan] Horowitz’s doing. The dangerous diplomatic process is here.”