Thursday, April 8, 2010

Monster project in Jerusalem

I travel here and there in the world, and am often struck by the intensity of the news cycle in Israel: probably the most intense anywhere. This post, for example, is about a story that was gigantic this morning, but by noon was totally pushed off the screens and forgotten.

Not only do I travel to various countries. I also travel rather often to Tel Aviv - these days, two or three times a week. Each time I reach town I'm struck by the fact that they've started building yet another 40-story tower. Even outside Tel Aviv, where in the 1960s standard apartment blocks were three stories, and in the 1970s they had four, nowadays they're mostly 15 or so. Which is good. Israel is a tiny country with a growing population, and the only way to go is up.

Except in Jerusalem. Although I live in a 12-story building, it is situated so almost no-one sees it, it breaks no skyline, and is almost unobtrusive. Jerusalem is a very special city, and needs to be built in gingerly and with sensitivity. Which is why some of us have been wondering for the past 15 years how anyone ever authorized the "Holyland" project (named after a 1930s hotel that once stood on a hill outside the city, if you can believe it. Nowadays it's in the middle of town). This is a 1,200-housing-unit project, in 12 towers built on a hill above the city; its architecture and proportions give it the appearance of a huge and ugly fortress brooding above the city and dwarfing everything around it. The only mitigating circumstance is that the hilltop is far from the Old City, so at least the truly historic parts of town have been spared its arrogance.

Accepted wisdom has always been that somebody greased somebody's palm; the fact that the mayor of the time was Ehud Olmert didn't buy him any fans and lost him some potential voters. Well, it now appears that the police also think there have been irregularities, and two days ago they arrested various folks, including Olmert's past best friend and former law partner, Uri Messer.

15 years late, alas. The towers are there, and will probably still be there for 500 years.


AKUS said...

Oh dear - you've awakened the sleeping bear. This will now be good for three or four Israel bashing articles on Comment is Free.


NormanF said...

I hope Jerusalem is "uglified" to keep it Jewish. If it offends the world's tastes, so sad, too bad. The only people who have ever truly loved the holy city are the Jews.