Har Homa (Hebrew: הר חומה, lit Wall Mountain, officially Homat Shmuel) is an Israeli settlement in southern East Jerusalem, near Beit Sahour. Built on land annexed to the Jerusalem municipality by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War, it is considered by much of the world an illegal Israeli settlement, although Israel disputes this.
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.
In 2011, Har Homa had a population of 13,000.
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 Rahel. Following the war, the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property planted a pine forest there to prevent misuse of the land by local Jordanian residents. Since 1967, the forest has been maintained by the Jewish National Fund.
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. In 1991, Israeli Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Moda'i approved expropriation of land on the forested hill for a new building project. 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. Construction began only in March 1997, during the administration of Benjamin Netanyahu, who saw the construction of homes in Har Homa as a legitimate expansion of Jerusalem.
Education and culture
In 2008, Har Homa neighborhood had 12 kindergartens, 6 day care centers, 2 elementary schools, 3 medical clinics, 2 youth movement centers (Bnei Akiva and Ezra), and 3 shopping centers. Egged bus lines connect Har Homa to downtown Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, the Malha Mall and Ramot.
Israeli officials acknowledge that some Palestinian land was expropriated for the Har Homa neighborhood, but say that nearly 80 percent of the land taken for the project belonged to Jews. According to another source, 75% of the land was expropriated from Israelis. Israel says Har Homa is within the city limits of Jerusalem and most of the land was owned by Jews prior to its conquest by Jordan in 1948. 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 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.
Views of U.S. administration
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 (Jerusalem Post, 3/9/97). 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 (The Times, 4/26/97).
While the United States has traditionally refrained from describing Jerusalem neighborhoods as settlements, in 2008, Condoleezza Rice was critical of building tenders in Har Homa announced after the Annapolis meeting. She described Har Homa as "a settlement the United States has opposed from the very beginning."
In November 2010 the United States criticized Israeli plans to build new housing units in Har Homa.
View of the European Union
In 2011, 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.
- "Israel plans 1,300 East Jerusalem Jewish settler homes". BBC News. 9 November 2010.
- 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.
- Fendel, Hillel (2007-12-25). "Jerusalem's Har Homa Waiting for Expansion". Israel National News. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
- Statistics, Municipality of Jerusalem (Hebrew)
- History of Har Homa
- Boston Globe, 5/1/98
- "Welcome to Chomat Shmuel (Har Chomah)". Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
- Tense standoff in Jerusalem ends, New York Times
- "Har Homa at a Glance". Foundation for Middle East Peace. May–June 1997. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- "Har Homa, Legal Aspects". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. March 3, 1997. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- 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
- 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.|
- Security Council press release condemning Har Homa
- Center for Middle East Peace factsheet
- Homat Shmuel (Har Homa) Website (Hebrew)