Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood
Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
Photo: Gal Tibon
Ohana, 'Who are they to decide?'
Photo: Gal Tibon

Gilo outraged at US demands to halt construction

Residents of Jerusalem neighborhood respond furiously to Yedioth Ahronoth report that Americans demand construction freeze. 'They, who operate in Iraq without blinking, tell us what to do inside Israel?' resident wonders

Residents of Gilo remember all too well the events that took place in their neighborhood at the start of the decade, when their homes became a target for attacks from the neighboring Palestinian town of Beit Jala for many months.


Calm has been maintained in the area for many years now, but was disturbed when a Yedioth Ahronoth report published Tuesday morning said that the American administration is demanding an end to construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood, which is located beyond the Green Line.


"Who are they to decide for us where to build?" wondered Shimon Ohana, a Border Guard officer who was critically wounded after being hit in the heart by a bullet fired by Palestinian snipers at the neighborhood years ago.


"This is a neighborhood within Israel and it hurts me to see that the Americans, who are operating in Iraq without blinking, tell us what to do inside Israel," he continued.


Ohana, whose recovery from his injury was considered a medical miracle, still deals with the medical implications of the injury he sustained while protecting the residents of Gilo.


He says the American demand to halt construction in the neighborhood he fought for and was injured in is pure gall.


"We are merely protecting our rights. If they don't interfere when Qassams are fired at us, they shouldn't interfere if we build in Gilo. It's time to stop making concessions," he said.


Residents of the neighborhood's Haanafa Street, which suffered most of the blows dealt at the time, also responded furiously to the report. "The neighborhood is part of Jerusalem and if we need to build another street or another balcony it is our exclusive right to do so, there is a limit to their demands," said Dalia Sulimani, a resident of the street.


"With all due respect to the Obama administration," she continued, "Where else would they like to constrict us exactly? Into the 1967 territories? Someone over there must have fell on their head."


'Residents will go out and fight'

Meir Turgeman a Jerusalem council member and chairman of the Gilo neighborhood board during the intifada, blames the situation on what he called "collaborators who went and leaked it out."


"I don't believe that the Americans are up to date on the construction situation in Gilo and they aren't interested in it either. This came from within. There are people in this country and on the city council who are collaborating with external bodies who don't have Jerusalem's best interests at heart," he said.


According to Turgeman, "There hasn't been construction in the Gilo neighborhood in over 10 years. What brought it on the agenda now all of a sudden? This is a good and diverse neighborhood. An example of Arabs and Jews living together in peace for many years.


"If anyone supports this and freezes construction in Gilo, the neighborhood's residents will go out and fight. We will not sit quietly and we will not allow any government to hurt Gilo."


The report also angered Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who said during a meeting with Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel Darius Degutis, "A demand like the one being made by the Americans, who oppose the issuing of construction permits in the Gilo neighborhood, pushes us beyond a red line that we cannot afford to cross, and is not legitimate.


"The right to build in all of united Jerusalem is indisputable in Israel, and this approach, which has been guiding us for the past 40 years has long been received by the international community."


Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 11.17.09, 14:38
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