Jan 23, 2022

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Israel media reported that the Israeli government notified the US government that the plans to build the  9000-unit Atarot neighborhood for Orthodox-Hareidi Jews will not go forward as planned. 

First Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in 50 years, canceled

As of last week, the plans to build a neighborhood on the 307-acre site of the defunct Jerusalem International Airport had received all the required municipal and government approvals> the project would have included housing units, one or more hotels, parks, schools, public buildings, as well as preservation of the historic terminal building. 

Israeli media is now reporting that the plan was removed from the agenda of a December 6 meeting of Jerusalem’s District Committee for Planning and Building, under the auspices of the Finance Ministry. According to media reports, this came as a result of communications from the US State Department as it would prevent the creation of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem since it would effectively cut off Jerusalem from Ramallah, the current capital of the Palestinian Authority.

The Biden administration has expressed their commitment to a “two-state solution” which would create an unprecedented “Palestinian” state inside the borders of Israel that has been ethnically cleansed of Jews, with its capital in Jerusalem. It can be assumed that Jews will not have access to the holy sites as this is the case in all areas currently controlled by the Palestinian Authority.  

The last neighborhood for religious Jews to be added to Jerusalem, Ramat Shlomo, was built 50 years ago. The plans for the Atarot neighborhood had been frozen for over a decade. 

The development does not bode well for other Jewish building projects in Jerusalem that have already received approval but are still in the planning stages. 

It is interesting to note that the then Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested to President Trump that the neighborhood be established with 4,000 units for Palestinian residents and 4,000 for Jewish residents. President Trump rejected the idea as his plan for peace included Atarot as part of the Palestinian capital. The Palestinian Authority rejected Trump’s plan and cut off relations with the Trump administration. 

Atarot: Land bought in 1912

A Jewish moshav (community) was built at the site in 1928 on land that had been purchased in 1912. In the following years, the community suffered attacks from the Arabs who lived nearby. When it was opened in 1924, the Atarot Airport was the first airport in the British Mandate for Palestine but the area was captured and the Jewish settlement was destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion during the 1948 War of Independence. The airport was taken over by Jordan which illegally occupied Judea and Samaria until 1967 when Israel conquered the regions in the defensive Six-Day War. The region was annexed to Israel in 1981 under the Jerusalem Law. Israel upgraded the airport and Arkia and El Al operated daily commercial flights from the airport between 1967 and 2001. During the Second Intifada, the industrial park and airport suffered from Palestinian attacks due to their proximity to Ramallah, leading to the closure of the airport.

The area was named after the biblical Atarot mentioned in Joshua 16:2, which is believed to have been situated nearby.