United Torah Judaism Jerusalem city councilmen have a new cause: shut down the capital's Har Hotzvim high-tech park and clear the area for residences. The haredi (ultra-orthodox) party is the largest party on the city council, with eight seats.
In a letter to Mayor Nir Barkat, party chairman in the city, Yaakov Halperin, said that the current location of the high-tech park was illogical because it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, including Sanhedria, Kiryat Zanz, Ezrat Torah, Ramat Shlomo, as well as Ramot. "There is no doubt that a regrettable historic mistake was made in building the park in its present location. In retrospect, the person who decided on its location lacked sufficient forward perspective to realize that Jerusalem would grow and develop to the present situation in which the industrial park is in the heart of residential neighborhoods," Halperin said.
Halperin added, "We, the city's taxpayers, are obliged to do something to see to the future development of more residential areas, while allocating land for industry and high tech on the real edges of the city."
On behalf of the entire party, Halperin is demanding an urgent debate to "halt the development of the high-tech industrial park beyond its current size, to consider moving it in its entirety over the coming years, and most of all - to consider, for the sake of future of Jerusalem's economy, alternative and fitting locations for industrial parks. The park at Har Hotzvim is an environmental nuisance to the residents of the neighborhoods bordering it, including traffic and transport to and from it. It would be historic negligence not to stop this nuisance at the present stage and with a proper view to the future."
Councilwoman Rachel Azaria responded to the initiative with an urgent letter to Barkat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The double standard of the haredi politicos, who on the one hand claim that there are no jobs for their constituency, while on the other hand seek to close the most important jobs in the city - is unmitigated hutzpah," she said.
Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality director Rabbi Uri Regev said, "Every time that we think that haredi conduct cannot make greater hallucinatory and outrageous demands, they prove just how naïve and lacking in imagination we are. A party in the municipal government that is demanding the removal of two of the city's most important workplaces can only be considered as a Trojan Horse. Before haredi politicians destroy this place, which is one of the most important industrial zones for the haredi community as well, they should get manna from heaven."
Har Hotzvim tenants include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA), Intel Israel Ltd. Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), NDS Ltd., RAD Data Communications Ltd., and many other companies, including start-ups and technology incubators. Founded in the 1970s, the 530-dunam (132.5-acre) high-tech park currently employs 10,000 people in 310,000 square meters of built-up space.
The Jerusalem Development Authority plans to expand Har Hotzcim to add 5,000 jobs over the coming years. The development plan includes the construction of more space for current high-tech companies and space for new ones.
Haredi groups in Jerusalem have targeted Har Hotzvim in the past, especially Intel's fab on the site, which operates on Saturday. Some of the protests at the site, demanding that the company stop work on Saturday, were violent.
The Jerusalem Municipality is unconcerned by the latest initiative. It said, "The request is groundless, contravenes the municipality's policy, and the mayor rejects it out of hand. The municipality's policy is the opposite and supports the expansion of industry in the city. Har Hahotzim is about to be expanded to take in more large companies. The park is an important component of Jerusalem's economic strength and creates many jobs and livelihoods for the city. This trend will grow."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 14, 2011
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011