Green groups argue that further construction would mar the view at the tourist attraction.
By Zafrir Rinat | Aug. 25, 2014

The Housing and Construction Ministry is pushing plans to build more housing on a hill in Mitzpeh Ramon despite its pledges to preserve the landscape. The hill, known as Har Gamal, overlooks the Ramon Crater, a major tourist attraction.

Har Gamal is already partially built up, and critics argue that further construction would severely impair the view in the area. Early this year, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel promised residents and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel to freeze the plans.

A month later, a regional planning committee agreed to shrink the project to 73 private houses from 540 units in high-rise buildings. The panel said the new construction would barely affect the feeling of open space at the crater’s rim.

The ministry then appealed to the national planning and building authorities, who have not yet agreed to a hearing on the matter. The ministry argues that the Mitzpeh Ramon authorities support a broader plan calling for 129 private houses.

“These changes corresponded to green groups’ demands and have been made out of a desire to minimize the disturbance to the landscape experience,” the ministry said.

According to an official at Ariel’s office, “It’s important that every planning process that has begun be completed to increase supply. And to not to have to use the plan for Har Gamal, the ministry is working on a plan for hundreds more homes in the northern part of Mitzpeh Ramon, in an effort to meet expected demand in the coming years.”