Monday, September 3, 2012

Zoning sub-committee for Jerusalem, October 17th 1967

Ultimately, history is the story of people and their often mundane lives. The history books like to focus on the large and the dramatic, but the fabric of the story is the everyday.

The setting up of the zoning sub-committee for East Jerusalem, which we've been following since its first meeting, was by definition an act of the ordinary superceding the extraordinary; the zoning committee rather than the cabinet ministers and the diplomats. Yet as we've also seen, the sub-committee didn't immediately begin dealing with banal zoning matters.

By its third meeting, however, on October 17th 1967, it was beginning to appear as you'd expect a zoning committee to appear. This doesn't make it any less interesting, however: now, finally, we begin to glimpse how Israeli officials went about the business of incorporating East Jerusalem into the city. Eternal capital and indivisible are political statements. Zoning is reality. The protocol of the meeting reflects a series of short discussions:

1. The Western Wall: to be discussed some other time.
2. Sami Levy has requested permission to set up a tourist center in a building in the former Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The committee wasn't convinced he owned the building, and the ministry of the treasury has proclaimed its control over the entire quarter for one year. Decision: the request will be discussed once the legal situation is clear.
3. A proposal to renovate the amphitheatre on Mount Scopus was discussed but not authorized. The road beneath it may become an artery road, but perhaps not, and this will effect the amphitheatre.
4. A request to renovate the Batei Mahse structure in the Old City was discussed but not authorized for lack of detail in the proposal. Batei Mahse was the only large structure in the former Jewish Quarter which had survived the battles of 1948 and the subsequent devastation under Jordanian rule, mostly intact. Dr. Zeev Vilnai, the historian on the committee, noted that 48 victims of the 1948 battle were buried next to the structure, and suggested there should be a plaque to explain this.
5. A proposal to shut down the road paved by the Jordanians through the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was tabled.
6. The meeting concluded with the inevitable kvetches about lack of a budget for the committee and lack of inspectors to oversee projects. In this aspect, at least, the committee was like all committees the world over since the invention of bureaucrats.

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