Jerusalem is being turned into "a kind of religious Disneyland", according to a former member of the city's planning team, Arthur Kutcher.
GV PAN Jerusalem skyline
LV ZOOM IN ON gate to old city
SV Street scenes in Jerusalem (2 shots)
MV Bell tower
LV TILT from Tower TO Wailing Wall
SV Priest thorough stone archway
GV Dome of the Rock
SV PAN from building under construction to work in progress (7 shots)
GV Jerusalem ZOOM in Plaza Hotel
CU Sign "The Plaza Jerusalem" TILT UP Palaza
LV Wolfson Towers under construction
'CU ZOOM IN For Sale signs (2 shots)
GV Jerusalem ZOOM IN TO French Hill
SV PAN Across French Hill
CU Kutcher to ???
GV Jerusalem ZOOM IN Omariya Towers
MAR. KUTCHER SPEAKING ON FILM: "Penthouse flats, high-rise luxury blocks break the city's horizontal skyline and produce a new kind of expression here, an expression of social inequality and of government favouritism. These tendencies of Western civilization if they continue in this city will convert it into a kind of religious Disneyland."
Initials AE/16.51 SGM/1711
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Background: Jerusalem is being turned into "a kind of religious Disneyland", according to a former member of the city's planning team, Arthur Kutcher.
Kutcher makes the allegation in a recently published book called "The New Jerusalem, Planning and Politics". Publication of the book coincided with the second meeting of the Jerusalem Committee, a body of distinguished international architects and town planners, convened to advise on the future development of Jerusalem.
The old city of Jerusalem was annexed by the Israelis after the 1967 was. Since then, it has been developed voraciously. The population has grown by 20% but the expansion of the city's services has failed to keep pace. Increased traffic is clogging the roads and there are not enough schools and hospitals.
But perhaps the greatest blight on Jerusalem is the skyscrapers that have begun to dot the skyline. The Government, implementing its decision to turn Jerusalem into an overwhelmingly Jewish city, has built on expropriated land to form a circle of Jewish estates around the Arab areas.
Private firms, cashing in on the deep emotions aroused by the holy city, are putting up high-rise hotels and apartment blocks for tourists and rich Americans eager to have a second home in Israel. Local protesters have become increasingly enraged as one high-rise development followed another.
The city authorities began to take steps to control the development three years ago, when Mayor Teddy Kollek first appointed the Jerusalem Committee. The committee investigated and criticised the existing jungle of development. It recommended new building regulations snd the establishment of a planning department.
However, that was to fail to reckon with the ingenuity of the property developers. For as "views of Jerusalem" became more and more desirable, no new private housing project could be conceived that didn't afford its new residents with a sweeping panorama over the holy city.
The Jerusalem Hilton, the Plaza Hotel, the Wolfson Towers and Omariya Tower all witness the conflict between the property developers and the town planners.
The 16-storey tower in the Omariya district, sponsored by the Housing Ministry, was put up with neither a building licence nor planning permission. The Plaza Hotel has turned Independence Park, one of the "green lungs" of Jerusalem, into a glorified front lawn, and the Wolfson Towers have been criticised for disfiguring the Valley of the Cross outside the old city.
But the developers have had their setbacks. Earlier this year plans to build a 24-storey hotel on Mount Scopus - the Hyatt House Hotel - were indefinitely postponed when permission to build was withdrawn. And work has also been stopped on the Omariya Project as a result of public pressure.
The groups opposed to the developers have received support recently from two quarters. Firstly from Arthur Kutcher, who was for three years a member of Jerusalem's town planning team. In his new book Mr. Kutcher claims that the present state of development has come about because the Israeli authorities want to make Jerusalem a capital city on a par with other capital cities of the world, instead of trying to preserve the unique flavour of the holy city. Commercial, touristic and residential developments were all planned to turn Jerusalem into "a sort of copy of Kansas City."
Mr. Kuptcher claims that the goals of increased foreign investment and tourism are taking precedence over the city's religious and historical heritage, and he sees in the new Jerusalem "the suicidal impulses of contemporary town planning."
The reconvened Jerusalem committee is not quite as sharp in their criticism of the planning authorities. In fact members praise the efforts that have been made since they last met to bring development under control. But they make nine major recommendations to improve the Jerusalem environment. These include the banning of all high-rise buildings round the old city, a limit on the growth of the city's population and the dispersal of commercial centres to relieve the pressure on the city centre.
But despite the proposals of the committee and the efforts of the municipal planning department, developers will still be able to find ways of circumventing the regulations, as long as there exists sufficient demand for apartments overlooking the old city. The irony of the situation is that this demand will only be satiated when the vista has been destroyed.