East Jerusalem to receive much needed infrastructure improvements

View of East Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock from a look out point at the Armon HaNatziv Promenade on January 9, 2017. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israeli government gave the go-ahead for a multi-million shekel plan to revamp the infrastructure of the predominantly Arab neighborhoods in the area known as East Jerusalem. The decision came on May 24, Jerusalem Day.

The municipal sewage and waste systems will be overhauled, upgraded and rebuilt. Among other things, the 177 million shekels will be dedicated to building 33 kilometers of sewage lines and purchasing garbage trucks and disposal units to facilitate a new garbage collection system.

This decision was made at a special cabinet meeting where Ze’ev Elkin, minister of Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs, outlined the plan that will theoretically benefit more than 300,000 residents who have lacked basic infrastructure for many decades. When all this comes to fruition, apart from other amenities, many East Jerusalem residents will be connected to the municipal sewage system for the first time.

The history, politics and even the geography of the city as a whole have contributed to the infrastructure deficiencies. The United Nations’ November 1947 attempt to create two states — one for Arabs and one for Jews — led to rioting. Tension and fighting continued until May 1948 when the modern State of Israel was declared. The city of Jerusalem was besieged and fell under Jordanian rule.

At the end of November that same year, what was meant to be a temporary agreement was reached between Lt. Col Moshe Dayan and Lt. Col Abdullah Tal to divide Jerusalem along what is known as the armistice line. The temporary situation ended up lasting 19 years. During this time, the western side of Jerusalem was under Israeli rule. The area north, east and south of Israel-controlled Jerusalem became known as East Jerusalem and fell under Jordanian rule.

In 1967 after the Six-Day War, Israel took back the whole city of Jerusalem — hence Jerusalem Day — and inherited the difficulties which have largely remained for the last 50 years. Statistics show that 75 percent of Arabs in this part of the city live below the poverty line.

The hilly topography of Jerusalem has also added to the difficulties. There is a shortage of housing resulting in overcrowding. Entire neighborhoods have been built without building permits and without environmental regulations on waste and sewage.

The Ministry of Finance will now allocate funds to the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage to clean up the environmental hazards giving top priority to sewage and waste systems.

Elkin said that it is high time that those who truly believe in a united Jerusalem take on this project as a national cause.