Arab Jerusalem Rehabilitation Project (1999)
Six years after the signing of the first Israeli-PLO Accords and at the end of the five-year transitional period that began in May 1994 and foresaw, inter alia, a negotiated final status for Jerusalem, Arab Jerusalem was facing an increasingly critical situation, and the prospects of recovering it as the future Palestinian capital, in more than just a symbolic sense, were decreasing dramatically. Against this background and as part of its ongoing work on the Question of Jerusalem, PASSIA launched in cooperation with Dutch geographer Jan de Jong its Arab Jerusalem Rehabilitation Project in early 1999, realizing the urgency for such an initiative.
The purpose of the project was to examine the means by which to shape and ensure a viable future for Arab Jerusalem, primarily from the viewpoint of the citizens themselves. The overall goal of the project was to facilitate municipal-level decision-making and mobilize civil self-initiative in protecting and restoring Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem by providing local communities with technical and organizational counsel for formulating and implementing local developmental strategies. The project focused thereby on an outline for the rehabilitation of local communities in Arab Jerusalem and drew various scenarios of what can be done and what will happen if nothing is done.
From its outset, the project promoted a citizen-oriented, ‘bottom-up’ approach, getting representatives from the local community (i.e., Anata) involved in the various stages of the project, which included fieldwork and data compilation. This pioneering approach produced valuable feedback on various development options and highly practical and applicable information on questions such as: What kind of pressure is there on housing capacity? How much additional living space is needed? How much development do the authorities enable, and how much is really set aside by them? What pressures can be recognized on amenities such as green spaces, or on cultural-historical sites and characteristic traditional architecture? What communal private and public space is left accessible to citizens as a result of official zoning plans?
The findings were published in a book entitled Palestinian Planning Imperatives in Jerusalem – With a Case Study on Anata. Supported by 17 colored maps and illustrated with numerous photos, it shows the difference between development as it is unilaterally pursued by Israel on the one hand, and development as it is needed to obtain an equitable Palestinian share in shaping the future of Jerusalem on the other. The book’s second part illustrates how the principle of equitable development planning can be applied to a crucial city-section of Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods and suburbs, focusing on a prospective alternative planning scheme for Anata township, compiled in cooperation with local citizens. Thus the publication served as an elementary tool of information that can be used and viewed by citizens, local councilors, institutions and researchers alike.