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Saving the Ellah Valley: Protecting our past, present and future

Piecemeal planning strategies threaten to destroy the landscape, historical treasures and unique ecological corridor in the Ellah Valley. 

 

The rapidly growing town of Beit Shemesh, half an hour's drive from Jerusalem, vividly captures the unique character, scenic beauty and rich heritage of Israel and its people.

 

The rolling hills, covered with red and purple wildflowers, are steeped in stories of biblical heroes and Hasmonean kings. The forests are home to gazelles, jackals, badgers and other endangered animal and plant species. The streets of the town reveal the mosaic of cultures and communities which make up Israeli society: sabras, new and veteran immigrants; secular, traditional and Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

 


But an expedited development strategy calls to build 10 new neighborhoods for Ultra-Orthodox communities in the sensitve Ellah Valley bordering Beit Shemesh.


The plans undermine master zoning plans specifically designed to preserve historical scenic landscapes, ecological corridors and archaeological treasures from the time of King David. They also fail to balance the special needs of the Ultra-Orthodox community, such as low-rise housing and numerous public institutions, with smart-growth planning principles.

 


Smarter planning improves quality of life for all

 

*We are working closely with community activists to demand new approaches to planning in and around Beit Shemesh.

 

*We have filed a series of objections and appeals to planning committees. Our objections have led to amendments that better utilize land resources while improving quality of life for all sectors of the community.

 

*We have appealed to the High Court of Justice to stop all damage to the landscape until a comprehensive planning framework for the entire region, including environmental assessments, is devised. Our appeal will be heard at the end of July.

 


Voices from the field

 

“Growth in Beit Shemesh must maintain quality of life for all residents and new building must respect the unique values of the natural landscape and irreplaceable historical treasures of the Ellah Valley. We are here to ensure that there will be green nature reserves with historical treasures; swimming pools and sports centers for secular residents; synagogues and mikvot (ritual baths) for their religious neighbors”  - Yael Dori, our urban planner

 


“I have no voice in what’s happening. The new neighborhoods will affect our quality of life and ruin the precious open spaces around the town. We turned to Adam Teva V’Din to help us protest the planners' decisions by filing formal planning objections. It's the only hope we have left to have a say in our town”- Eve, a long-time Beit Shemesh resident, fears she is losing her say in the community.

 



“This is about protecting our past, present and future. Archeological digs in areas marked for development reveal fragments of a thriving ancient culture: wine presses, mosaic floors, ritual baths and burial sites. We are talking about a national treasure chest. Someone must stand up for our history” - Tzachi, Dalit and Tzeela, activists from neighboring kibbutzim

 

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