Gerard Heumann

UN suited and UN wanted

A long-forgotten remnant of The War of Independence, this large and extremely valuable site, three and a half hectares in area, was until ’67 in Jordanian hands. Omitted from the Jerusalem Master Plan of 1959 it is still today officially designated as an “Area for future land use.” Administered by the Israel Lands Authority and state-owned, no written lease exists. A rare anomaly.

Current UNWRA site. (Gerard Heumann)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) storage facility north of Maalot Dafna in Jerusalem is, to say the least, in severe conflict and incompatible with its environs. Surrounded by public roads and fenced off are warehouses, “temporary” structures and offices of an industrial character. It is situated in the midst of two Jewish neighborhoods – Maalot Dafna and Kiryat Aryeh, obstructing pedestrian access from these neighborhoods to the Rene Cassin High School and the Ammunition Hill National Memorial Park directly opposite.

Were the enclave to be evacuated and relocated, the site could then be developed as a Jewish neighborhood, appropriately completing the existing urban fabric.

Proposed plan for UNWRA facility (Gerard Heumann)

In place of this compound the new neighborhood would comprise some 500 home units, associated public buildings and a public open space system enabling excellent pedestrian access to the surrounding area, a large public park on the hilltop at its center.

Access to private parking will not require the building of any new roads as simply widening existing ones will do. The existing large park and ride parking facility and Ammunition Hill light-rail station close by to the east would ease parking requirements making this project extremely economical.

It is not only the physical environmental aspect that must be addressed here. Well known is that UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere distribute textbooks teaching hate, violence and antisemitism despite repeated promises to remove them. Weapons placed inside these schools have been used to launch attacks on Israel. Teachers in UNRWA schools celebrated the massacre of 7 October. The UN Secretary General’s defense of the atrocities committed by Hamas on the 7th of October was more than enough.

Get them out. Now is the time to act.

About the Author
Gerard Heumann is an architect and town planner in Jerusalem.