In May 2018, the Israeli government decided, for the first time, to allocate major budgets for improving the quality of life of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Government Resolution 3790 allocated 2.5 billion NIS over five years for education, economic development and infrastructure in East Jerusalem. These new budgets could greatly improve daily life, particularly in the public realm including parks and public spaces, roads and transport, and commerce and local economics. One major obstacle is of course political: the resolution explicitly aims to enhance ‘Israelification’ of the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, and perhaps also linked to an agenda to change the municipal borders. The second obstacle is professional: successful implementation will require new approaches in urban planning, given major differences in land ownership and registration, and much more significant local engagement in order to adapt the plans to the very different East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
In response, the Urban Clinic convened the ‘Platform for Planners in East Jerusalem’ a series of workshops to develop new knowledge to bridge these gaps. The Jerusalem Municipal Planning Department is a partner in the project, and we also work with the government agencies responsible for implementing the resolution. Over one-hundred professionals registered for the series, about evenly split between East and West Jerusalemites.
By Spring 2019 we have delivered four substantive day-long sessions, on the topics of public space, transportation, land registration, and economic development. We have been gratified to find that is possible to hold substantive and informative professional discussions, while acknowledging tensions, frustrations and conflicting interests. Each session attracted between forty to seventy participants, responding to government and municipal plans, and working together to generate about thirty feasible ideas for improvement. The full report, including links to all presentations, will be available on our website in the coming months. We’re now weighing options for next steps.