This week we learned that Moshe Leon, mayor of Jerusalem, is promoting a new plan to build a neighborhood at White Ridge. The “small” white ridge plan is presented as an alternative to the “large” white ridge plan we have been fighting against. But there is no cause to destroy the home of wild animals at all. The housing solutions in Jerusalem need to be, and can be, inside the city’s existing bounds.

Leon plans to expand the city bounds and built a new neighborhood on a significant portion of the forested slopes of white ridge. This isn’t “no man’s land” but the home of the animals. The plan intends to bite into the already dwindled open spaces of nature and destroy yet another of the sanctuary areas the deer and other animals have been pushed back into due to previous building.

During debates about the original white ridge plan in became clear that building solutions for the residents of Jerusalem for several decades can be provided by developing and rehabilitating built zones, without expanding the city. The white ridge plan was only justified as a source for “supplementary grounds” – i.e. bonanza for contractors of urban renewal projects, when they should be aided, if need be, by an organized government budget.

The original white ridge plan has not yet been approved in planning committees, it is exposed to legal attacks given the deep flaws that surrounded the debates, and it will not be given a seal of approval in the foreseeable future. The mayor’s deviation from it goes along with the stance of many other factors and inspires hope that, even if the plan does get approved, it will not take place in action. In this era of environmental and climate change, the focus should be on rehabilitation of open areas and natural habitats, not on the continuing destruction of nature in the “salami method”, bite by bite. The borders of Jerusalem’s expansion have long been crossed and what’s needed now is a strong defense for the surviving mountains and valleys. We will keep fighting for that.