The suburbs of northern Jerusalem

With all the fuss about the Ramat Shlomo decision by the Israeli government, announced as a (likely deliberate) slap in the face at Vice President Biden, I thought it was worth a little perspective–geographic perspective.


One hears over and over in the news that this is an “expansion” of a “settlement” in Occupied East Jerusalem.*

That’s Ramat Shlomo there at the top (north) of the image (which is from Google Earth), circled. Down in the lower right, you will see the Temple Mount, in the rectangle. (Click for a larger image.)

Clearly, Ramat Shlomo is not in East Jerusalem–at least not in any geographically meaningful sense. In fact, it is north and west of the heart of Jerusalem. It is indeed on the other side of the Green Line (which for some reason Google Earth depicts as a red line). That means it was in the part of the former British Mandate of Palestine that was occupied territory on account of the Jordanian army having seized it during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.

Whatever one might think of the presence of Jewish communities on the other side of the 1948 armistice lines (they are not “the 1967 borders,” as often stated in the press), no one can realistically expect that established suburbs such as Ramat Shlomo, on the northern edge of Jerusalem, are going to be evacuated as part of any potential two-state solution.

I have taken a personal interest in this controversy, erupting as it did so soon before our departure for Jerusalem. In fact, the apartment where we will be staying while I am a Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University is in French Hill (marked by the yellow pin). As you can see, French Hill is within the formerly Jordanian-occupied portion of the former British territory of Palestine. The Mount Scopus campus of the university itself is in the “island” on the right of the image that was already under Israeli control before 1967.

It just so happens that we arrive in Jerusalem two days before Yom Yerushalayim, which should be interesting.

* All three words capitalized because that is how it is almost always stated in media accounts, as if Occupied East Jerusalem were the place name.

4 thoughts on “The suburbs of northern Jerusalem

  1. MSS,

    I’m confused by the perspective in your post. The Ramat Shlomo is a perfect example, isn’t it, of how the Israeli government annexes more and more land that is outside of what is traditionally seen as Jerusalem and then calls it “Jerusalem” and build settlements there. This has happened over decades, not suddenly, as we both recognize.

    The Jordanians did seize that area in 1948 from what was supposed to be Palestinian, not Israeli land, per the UN Mandate. The Israelis then conquered the land after Jordan had declared war on Israel following Israel’s attack on Egypt. Or am I wrong here in some way here, too?

    My opposition to building settlements in the occupied territories (don’t the Israeli governments over the years call these territories ‘occupied’ because they don’t want the territories annexed which would make Jews an instant minority?) has been consistent for almost four decades (I was only 13 in 1970). I am unsure where you stand on this issue…:-)

  2. Let me try to explain by reference to my own thought process that let to the post. I kept reading and hearing about “Ramat Shlomo in Occupied East Jerusalem.” So I looked it up on Google Maps, expecting to find it was somewhere off towards Maale Adumim, perhaps between there and Mount Scopus. Such a location, after all, would make it east of the Old City, and on the borderlands of the mostly Arab-populated area of Jerusalem. I was a bit surprised to find it was to the north, and actually farther west than the 1947 partition line within the city itself.

    My goal here is not to argue the history and even less the “right” of one group of people or another to live here or there on land that changed hands as a result of the Six Day War. Actually, those kinds of things don’t get me all worked up. I was making a practical point: whatever the “right” of Jews or Arabs to live in the area where Ramat Shlomo is now located, can anyone seriously expect that any of the suburban neighborhoods of Jerusalem are going be be accepted by any Israeli government as “settlements” to be dismantled? I don’t think so.

    We need to draw a distinction–a purely practical one–between the “outposts” far from Jerusalem and those locations that are closer in such as Ramat Shlomo. The recent flap over the proposed new homes in Ramat Shlomo has totally elided this distinction. Each of the players in this–from the Shas party that controls the housing ministry to Netanyahu to the Palestinian leadership to the Obama administration–has elided this distinction for its own narrow political purposes.

  3. Oh, and yes, Mitchell, your understanding in your second paragraph matches mine.

    The entire area we know as the West Bank, including Ramat Shlomo, is land intended by the 1947 partition to be in the Arab state to be carved out of Palestine. Indeed, so were large chunks of the pre-1967 territory of the State of Israel. Jordan maintained a military occupation over the West Bank up until the 1967 war.

    I am not sure in what way the status of this land under the 1947 partition plan is useful now, given that no one seems to be arguing that a future Arab state within historic Palestine would be based on the 1947 partition. So what is relevant is what to do with the land vacated by Jordanian forces as a result of the 1967 war. (Pardon me for concluding with a fairly obvious point!)

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