Har Homa (Hebrew: הר חומה, lit Wall Mountain), officially Homat Shmuel, is an Israeli settlement in southern East Jerusalem, near Beit Sahour. Built on 1,850 dunams of land expropriated in 1991, It is considered an illegal Israeli settlement by much of the world, although Israel disputes this. The settlement is also referred to as Jabal Abu Ghneim, which is the Arabic name of the hill. One purpose given for the decision approving of its establishment was to obstruct the growth of the nearby Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The neighborhood was officially renamed Homat Shmuel in 1998 after Shmuel Meir, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, who played an active role in its development before he was killed in a car accident in 1996.
During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the hill was a base for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a position taken over by Jordan's Arab Legion. The Hebrew name "Har Homa" refers to a wall built on the remains of a Byzantine church on the mountain which was visible to Palmach forces stationed at kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Following the war, the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property planted a small forest of non-native pine trees there to prevent misuse of the land by local Jordanian residents. After 1967, the forest was maintained by the Jewish National Fund until many of the trees were removed when the housing construction began in the late 1990s.
Start of the settlement
Plans for residential development were drawn up in the 1980s, but were opposed by Israeli environmental groups working to preserve the open areas in Jerusalem. A primary aim was to complete the continuous Jewish encirclement in East Jerusalem by stopping a perceived 'hole' in this area, and thus hinder Palestinian development that would create linkage between Beit Sahour and Sur Baher. In 1991, Israeli cabinet minister Yitzhak Moda'i approved expropriation of the land, which was owned by a variety of private owners, both Jewish and Arab, on the basis of eminent domain for new building projects conforming to a master plan. Both Jewish and Arab landowners protested the land seizures and appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, which denied their claims and ruled in favor of the government. The major landholder was David Meir, who then made an alliance with the Arabs whose land had been expropriated to block the development.
Part of the original land is said also to have been owned by the Greek Orthodox Church and allegedly either sold or leased after severe pressure was applied by Israel on church authorities.
After the first land confiscations in 1995, Arab states brought the case before the UN Security Council. In May 1995, a draft resolution condemning Israel was vetoed by the US. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres initially approved construction plans for Jewish homes on the site, but postponed the groundbreaking ceremony to avoid conflict with Palestinians who were seeking to overturn the decision in the Israeli courts. In July 1995, the government decided not to proceed with construction.
On 19 February 1997, the newly elected Benjamin Netanyahu government approved the construction of the settlement. The Arab states again went to the Security Council. The General Assembly condemned Israel's actions, but two UNSC resolutions in March were again vetoed by the US. In March 1997, the Netanyahu government, who saw the construction of homes in Har Homa as a legitimate expansion of Jerusalem, eventually started the work. In March 2015, Netanyahu said that "we had to protect the southern gateway to Jerusalem by building here. There was huge objection, because this neighborhood is in a location which prevents the Palestinian (territorial) contiguity."
Education and culture
In 2013, Har Homa had 12 kindergartens, 6 day care centers, 5 elementary schools, 3 medical clinics, 4 youth movement centers (Bnei Akiva, Ezra, Ariel and Beitar), and 3 shopping centers. Egged bus lines connect Har Homa to downtown Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, the Malha Mall and Ramot. There is no high school and students must take buses to reach nearby high schools in Gilo, Armon HaNatziv or other neighborhoods. Har Homa has secular, traditional, and modern orthodox Jewish populations. Although many residents work in central Jerusalem, there is also an express bus to Tel Aviv for those who work outside of Jerusalem's environs.
Israeli officials acknowledged that some Palestinian land was expropriated for the Har Homa neighborhood, but said that nearly 80% of the land taken for the project belonged to Jews. According to FMEP, Israelis own approximately 75% of the land. One-third of it was purchased before 1948, and the remainder during the occupation after 1967. Palestinians owned approximately 33% of the planning area.
Israel said that Har Homa is within Jerusalem, and construction work does not constitute a change in the status of Jerusalem, in accordance with the Oslo Accords. Furthermore, the land was unoccupied and undeveloped prior to the current construction; both Jewish and Arab landholders were compensated for the land; and residents of Beit Sahour would not be able to develop the land in any event as the Oslo agreements specifically barred Palestinian jurisdiction over Jerusalem for the time being, and also excluded settlements as an issue, leaving it for permanent status negotiations.
Residents of Beit Sahour, in conjunction with Israeli peace activists, campaigned against the decision to build Har Homa neighborhood, setting up what they called an "international peace camp" at the site.
Most of the residents of Har Homa today are young families who moved there in search of affordable housing. When the Jerusalem municipality approved the initial 2,500 housing units in Har Homa, it also approved 3,000 housing units and 400 government-financed housing units in the Arab neighborhood of Sur Baher, which faces Har Homa. The plans were drawn up in 1994, but the approval process was stepped up in May 1997 as a counterbalance to Jewish development at Har Homa. Palestinian officials dismissed the project as a ploy aimed at deflecting international criticism.
After failing to stop the development of the site, the residents of Beit Sahour have petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to return the undeveloped land between Beit Sahour and Har Homa to the Palestinian municipality, and to move the security fence to reflect their ownership of this land.
In 1997, the U.S. vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions that called on Israel to stop construction work. The U.S. was the only country of the 15 members on the council to vote against the resolution. In a vote of 134 to 3, the United States, along with Israel and Micronesia, were the only countries among the 185 members in the UN General Assembly to vote against an April 1997 resolution demanding an immediate halt to construction at Har Homa. The previous month, a similar resolution condemning Israeli activity at Har Homa was passed 130 to 2, with only the U.S. and Israel voting against it.
While the United States has traditionally refrained from describing Jerusalem neighborhoods as settlements, in 2008, then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was critical of building tenders in Har Homa announced after the Annapolis Conference meeting. She described Har Homa as "a settlement the United States has opposed from the very beginning".
In 2011, then EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was disappointed to hear that Israel was planning to expand Har Homa. She said in a statement that "the European Union has repeatedly urged the government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem (...) All settlement activities are illegal under international law".
- "Storm grows over Jerusalem settlement". BBC News. 2008-01-07. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
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- Israel Plans East Jerusalem Housing (New York Times, Nov. 8, 2010)
- "Obama raps Israeli plans for 1,300 Jewish settler homes". BBC News. 9 November 2010.
- Judah Ari Gross, 'US officials: Washington could back UN resolution on Palestine,' The Times of Israel 19 March 2015:'the official referenced Netanyahu’s approval of construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa to block contiguity between Palestinian-majority areas during his first stint as prime minister in the 1990s as proof that Netanyahu truly meant what he said. “It was a way of stopping Bethlehem from moving toward Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said at the time.“ To actually come out and say that this construction is actually driven by efforts to undermine a future Palestinian state is fairly dramatic,” said the official.'
- Jody Rudoren, ‘Netanyahu Says No Palestinian State if He Is Re-Elected,’ New York Times 16 March 2015.:’ Mr. Netanyahu said he had authorized that construction during his first term to block Palestinians from expanding Bethlehem, and to prevent a “Hamastan” for militants from sprouting in the hills nearby.’
- Fendel, Hillel (2007-12-25). "Jerusalem's Har Homa Waiting for Expansion". Israel National News. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
- Homat Shmuel
- History of Har Homa
- Amir Cheshin, Bill Hutman, Avi Melamed Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem, Harvard University Press, 1999 pp.57ff.
- Merav Mack,'Christian Palestinian Communities in Israel: Tensions between laity, clergy and state,' in Marshall J. Breger, Yitzhak Reiter, Leonard Hammer (eds.), Sacred Space in Israel and Palestine: Religion and Politics, Routledge, 2013 pp.284-307 pp.293-294.;'One of the most contested cases in recent years was the alleged lease or sale of Abu Ghneim, owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, on which a large Jewish neighbourhood was established in 1997 known by the name of Har Homa. To illustrate the kind of pressure put on the patriarchs, according to Ruth Kark and Itamar Katz, the appointment of Patriarch Irineos 1 was "blocked" three times, "due to pressure exerted by government ministers and senior officials, municipal functionaries, businessmen, real-estate agents, financiers, building contractors, and international companies.'
- Jabal Abu Ghneim & Ras Al-Amud. Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, 20 May 1999
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- Har Homa at a Glance. Settlement Report, Vol. 7 No. 3; May–June 1997; Foundation for Middle East Peace
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- Alexander Safian (February 27, 1997). "Building in Har Homa". CAMERA. Archived from the original on 2007-12-22. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- "Construction at Har Homa". Netanyahu.org. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- Jerusalem Post, 5/23/97
- Baltimore Sun, 5/23/97
- (Jerusalem Post, 3/9/97)
- (The Times, 4/26/97)
- HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, HERB KEINON AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH (January 10, 2008). "Rice: US entirely opposed to Har Homa". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- US slams approval of 1,345 new east J'lem homes (Jerusalem Post, Nov. 8, 2010)
- EU ‘Disappointed’ at Decision to Build in Har Homa (Israel National News, August 6, 2011)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Har Homa.|
- Homat Shmuel (Har Homa) website (Hebrew)
- Security Council press release condemning Har Homa
- Center for Middle East Peace factsheet