Camel Hill Neighborhood Environmental Campaign

Keshet was at the center of a public campaign against a governmental plan to develop a new residential neighborhood on the edge of the Ramon Crater cliffs.

The cancelled construction plans for the Camel Hill neighborhood. Imaging – Amit Reisberg

The “Har Gamal” (Camel Hill) neighborhood is a product of the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC). The plan sought to provide rapid housing solutions for new immigrants that arrived in the early 1990s from the former Soviet Union. However, at that time, only a few private homes were constructed. Fortunately, the extensive construction of apartment buildings at the outer perimeter of the original plan – on the cliff’s edge – was never realized.

At the beginning of the millennium, the Housing Ministry requested that the area originally designated for the construction of 400 apartments be repurposed into lots for single family homes. The new plan situated the backyards of private-home lots to a mere 75 meters from the edge of the crater. At that stage already, Keshet demanded that the archaeological site at Camel Hill be excluded from any construction plans for the area.

The Ministry deposited its revised building plan in mid-2014. Keshet consequently launched a public campaign and submitted an objection against the plan to the planning committee. It was signed by 163 Mitzpe Ramon residents, demanding the complete cancellation of the plan.

Initially, the newly elected mayor, Mr Roni Marom, supported the residents’ request to cancel the new plan. Later, however, he withdrew his support, possibly because of external political pressures.

The Southern Region’s Regional Planning Committee, however, reduced the number building lots to 35, stipulating they were to be separated by a road from the crater’s edge.

Map of the Camel Hill neighborhood. The plots in orange were annulled by the Southern Regional Committee.

The Housing Ministry rejected this compromise and appealed the Southern Region’s Regional Planning Committee’s decision in the National Committee. This appeal, however, was summarily dismissed. But the Housing Ministry failed to follow up and submit a revised plan to the Southern Region’s Regional Planning Committee, or to market those lots that had been sanctioned.

The decision of the National Appeals Committee

Ultimately, in August 2019, in light of the Housing Ministry’s failure to follow up, the Southern Region’s Regional Planning Committee canceled the plan in its entirety. It also demanded that the Housing Ministry submit a new plan that would comply with the earlier decisions and instructions of Southern Region’s Regional Planning Committee.

Keshet continues to monitor the Housing Ministry’s actions and will persist in its efforts to prevent any construction initiatives adversely affecting the area’s ecology and landscape.

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