These housing units will be located near Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives property of the Lutheran World Federation. The units will be different sizes and leased to couples, families and singles (there are more and more elderly people who have no one left to care for them) at subsidized rates, providing an affordable housing solution within Jerusalem. This solution will enable many Palestinian Jerusalemites to maintain their Jerusalem residency and keep the right to work and live in Jerusalem and to move freely within its boundaries. Jerusalemites also receive health care and pensions that are critical to maintaining family life. Without adequate housing, these families are being forced to leave the city of their heritage and to relinquish their rights.
The housing project on the Mount of Olives is vital to the future of the Christian presence and witness in Jerusalem and it is important, therefore, to the future of Jerusalem as a city of peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims and as an example of reconciliation for the world.
- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, President, Lutheran World Federation
The total capital investment needed for the project is approximately 8.4 million USD. Over $800,000 has already been raised by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) toward its goal of two million USD, 30 million Swedish Kronor have been pledged by the Church of Sweden, and one million Euros have been pledged by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Council for Foreign Relations. The Advisory Committee received positive signs for additional support from Norway and Germany.
The LWF and its architectural and legal advisers are aggressively pursuing the needed Israeli permits to build. A Master Site Plan (MSP) for the whole of the LWF Mount of Olives property has been developed and submitted to the Israeli government. Efforts are well underway to meet the government’s demands regarding land ownership and other technical aspects of the plan and to find negotiated solutions to various political, technical and legal issues. Once the MSP is approved, seventeen permits are required in order to proceed with construction of the housing units. The permit applications should eventually proceed smoothly because they will be consistent with the detailed plans already submitted in relation to the MSP.
Currently, the LWF is working to convince the Ministry of Interior's legal advisor to recommend to the Regional Planning Committee to allow the Master Site Plan submitted by the LWF to proceed based on the evidence of ownership presented by the LWF. In addition to the physical presence of Lutheran ministries within the boundaries of the Augusta Victoria property for 100 years, the evidence includes a complex series of documents dating from the Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Israeli periods and complicated agreements between the KAVF and the WF. The documents are written in Turkish, English, Arabic, Hebrew, and German, the original deeds and related court rulings are located in the archives or land registries of various countries, and some of the documents have been dispersed, often unsystematically, and perhaps even destroyed, due to wars and political interests.Under normal circumstances the process would be a demanding one given the size of the property and the many transactions that took place in order to assemble what we recognize as the LWF property today. The process becomes even more convoluted as one factors into it the intricate relationships with the neighborhood surrounding the Augusta Victoria property, the historic and emotionally-charged Mount of Olives location, and the political atmosphere in Israel at the moment dominated by a push do diminish the overall Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem.Despite the delays related to the approval of the Master Site Plan and issuance of the building permits, the Advisory Committee hopes to break ground in 2011. Already in 2010 the LWF is planning to begin construction on a retaining wall that is necessary for the project and will take many months to complete. In preparation for the construction of the apartments, an agreement between the Church of Sweden and the LWF regarding procurement procedures, quality control, monitoring and reporting has been drafted and is nearly ready for signing.
Call (800) 638-3522, for more information.