Mount of Olives Housing Project

 Shortage of Affordable Housing

 

The shortage of affordable housing in Jerusalem is a key factor contributing to the departure of many Christians.

 

An empowered Christian minority plays an important role in building a modern and democratic Palestinian society and state. Palestinian Christians and their churches, schools, and health services often play peacekeeping roles between Israelis and Palestinians. Enabling Christians to continue to live in Jerusalem is crucial to strengthening Jerusalem as a city of peace shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims and to promoting peace and reconciliation among Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world.

 

In 1946 there were 31,400 Christians living in Jerusalem along with 99,000 Jews and 34,000 Muslims. Today, there are over 440,000 Jews, 200,000 Muslims, but less than 8,000 Christians. While the Jewish and Muslim populations have grown significantly, it appears that in the coming decades there could be virtually no Palestinian Christians living in Jerusalem. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), and the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Foundation (KAVF) are addressing the need for housing through the construction of a housing project on the Mount of Olives for the Palestinian Christians of Jerusalem.

 

Partnering for Human Rights

 

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), and the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Foundation (KAVF) are addressing the need for housing through the construction of a housing project on the Mount of Olives for the Palestinian Christians of Jerusalem. The project will consist of housing units, a community center, and conference facility.  

 

These housing units will meet the current zoning parameters of the property and will be leased based on need to Christian Palestinian Jerusalemites, particularly to young families and the elderly, at subsidized rates, providing a much-needed affordable housing option within Jerusalem.

 

The housing project will include apartments for “independent living” residences and “assisted living” residences, and in a second phase, a community center, conference facility, guest house, and other communal spaces will be added.

 

Families and individuals with one or more member of their family needing minimal specialized care (independent living) or help with more basic functions (assisted living) will be able to use these residences. The plan for independent and assisted living housing complements the continuum of care available on the property with Augusta Victoria Hospital and the planned Elder Care and Palliative Medicine Institute. 

 

This project will enable many Palestinian Jerusalemites who are elderly or are living with disabilities to have specialized housing to fit their needs and also to maintain their and their families’ Jerusalem residency. A Jerusalem resident holds many rights, including the right to work and live in Jerusalem and to move freely within its boundaries. Jerusalemites receive health care and pensions that are critical to maintaining family life. But without adequate housing, these Palestinian Christian families are being forced to leave the city of their heritage and to relinquish their rights.

 

Together we can build a housing project that will help alleviate the critical shortage of housing in Jerusalem and at the same time strengthen the dwindling Christian presence there.

I have heard that the number of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem is decreasing. Is this true?

The number of Christians in Jerusalem has decreased dramatically over the last sixty-five years while the Jewish and Muslim numbers in Jerusalem have increased just as dramatically. Tragically, we are nearing a day when the Arabic-speaking Christian minority in Jerusalem may number only a few thousand or even just a few hundred.

In 1946 there were 31,400 Christians in Jerusalem, 34,000 Muslims, and 99,000 Jews. By the year 2000, while the Christian population of Jerusalem shrank to less than 15,000, the Jewish population grew to 440,000 and the Muslim population grew to almost 200,000. The lack of housing is one of the many factors that have compelled many Palestinian Christians to leave Jerusalem and relocate to the West Bank or to another country altogether.


Some Christian leaders like ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan estimate that the actual Christian presence in Jerusalem in 2014 is less than 8,000 and that the Christian population in Jerusalem could soon diminish to less than 5,000 due to the Israeli Separation Wall around Jerusalem. Perhaps as many as one half of the Christians who currently live in Jerusalem could be excluded from Jerusalem by the Separation Wall. In order to maintain their Jerusalem residency they would need to move to a location inside Jerusalem.

How can I help to support the Christians in Jerusalem?

The lack of affordable housing in Jerusalem is one of the key factors in the decrease of Christians in the area. The need for affordable housing is evident by the stories of individual families, by the reports of human rights groups, and the long, long waiting lists for other church projects similar to the Mount of Olives Housing Project (MOHP). Your prayers, encouragement and financial support will help to make the MOHP a reality.

How will this project promote a shared Jerusalem?

The impression of Jerusalem that many have is that of a mosaic, not of a melting pot. The special character of Jerusalem is in the distinct pieces, the unique communities that celebrate and pass on their traditions and values. Each piece of the mosaic is distinct, but when you step back the pieces together, ideally, reveal a beautiful picture of the richness and diversity of Jerusalem. Without efforts like the MOHP the realization of Jerusalem as a city of peace, as a shared city between Jews, Christians and Muslims, will never occur.

Jerusalem is a key to the just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to promoting understanding and tolerance among Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world.

A Jerusalem where the Arabic-speaking Christian minority is diminished to a symbolic presence and its Muslim character is further eroded is a failed city and a source for increased tensions in the region and perhaps even globally. A city that cannot protect its minorities cannot serve as a model of co-existence so desperately needed.  Projects to help Jerusalemites in need, like the MOHP, are of critical importance.

Who will provide financial oversight for the housing project?

Financial oversight of the project is provided by the Lutheran World Federation. The Lutheran World Federation will be responsible — according to a formal Agreement between the LWF, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), and the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria Foundation (KAVF) — for the construction and management of the housing project. This includes procurement procedures, financial accounting and reporting. All the financial matters are to be managed by the LWF and are fully audited by an independent auditor.

Oversight for the housing project was initially carried out by a Lutheran World Federation Land Committee which includes representatives from the LWF, Norway, Germany, and the ELCJHL who report to the governing bodies of the LWF, the KAVF, and the ELCJHL. The oversight responsibility now falls primarily on the "Mount of Olives Housing Project Advisory Committee" which met for the first time in October 2007. The Advisory Committee includes representatives from the churches of America (ELCA), Norway, Sweden, Germany and Finland, as well as LWF staff, the ELCJHL bishop, and the pastor of the Arabic-speaking Lutheran congregation in Jerusalem. Management of the project will be provided by the LWF Jerusalem program while overseen by the Land Committee and the MOHP Advisory Committee.

How much will it cost to build this housing project?

Funds will be raised to cover fees for permits, fees for architects and engineers, costs of building materials, and the labor for construction. The Kaiserin Augusta Victoria Foundation (KAVF) and the LWF have agreed to set aside a portion of the Mount of Olives property for this project, so no additional funds are needed in order to purchase land.

The apartments would be leased at a rate well below the market rate, thereby providing an affordable housing solution for needy individuals and families while at the same time ensuring that all running costs would be covered in the long-term.

How is fundraising coming along?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has funded and pledged two million USD, 30 million Swedish Kronor have been pledged by the Church of Sweden, and one million Euros have been transferred by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Council for Foreign Relations. The Advisory Committee received positive signs for additional support from Norway and Germany as well as affirmations of continued support from North America, Sweden and Finland.

The KAVF and the LWF have agreed to dedicate a portion of the Mount of Olives property for this project thereby saving millions of dollars right from the beginning!

If you don't raise the full amount right away, can you begin the project anyway?

Yes, the construction will be divided into stages so that it will be possible to begin before the total amount is raised. In order to ensure that the project does not exceed its budget, work on a construction stage will not begin until the funding has been securely pledged or received for that stage.

The initial designs and drawings by the architect are already underway so that we can start applying for permits and licenses as soon as possible. Each stage of construction will proceed only when the total amount of funds for that stage have been secured, but we hope to have as little interruption between the stages as possible as delays increase the total cost. The housing units will be built first as the need for this residence facility is acute.

How can I make a financial contribution to the housing project?

Gifts by check

If you wish to donate to LWF Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives Housing Project (MOHP), or to a specific program of LWF Jerusalem, please make your check out to The Lutheran World Federation and send it to the address below:

Donation checks from the U.S. and Canada should be sent to:
Hope Lutheran Church
Attention: LWF Jerusalem Program
4201 Guilford Drive
College Park, Maryland 20740
  

 

Donation checks from Europe and elsewhere should be sent to: 
The Lutheran World Federation
Attention: Veronique Debal
P.O. Box 2100
150, route de Ferney
CH-1211 Geneva 2
Switzerland

Gifts by electronic transfer of funds

Name of Account     : The Lutheran World Federation

Account Number     : 9110-463015 – 510

Account Currency     : USD

Bank Name             : Arab Bank

Branch  #               : 861

Branch Name          : Al Ram

Address                  : Al Ram Main Road - West Bank - Palestine

Swift Code              : ARABPS22110

IBAN                      : PS14ARAB000000009110463015510

Correspondent         : CITI BANK N.A – New York - USA

Swift Code              : CITIUS33

 

Name of Account     : The Lutheran World Federation

Account Number      : 9110-463015 – 592

Account Currency     : EURO

Bank Name             : Arab Bank

Branch                   : 861

Address                  : Al Ram

Address                  : Al Ram Main Road - West Bank - Palestine

Swift Code              : ARABPS22110

IBAN                      : PS31ARAB000000009110463015592

Correspondent         : Arab Bank Frankfurt
Swift Code              : ARABDEFF

All contributions of any amount are helpful and appreciated. LWF Jerusalem will send you a receipt acknowledging the arrival of your donation.

If you are contributing to the Mount of Olives Housing Project (MOHP), please send an email to mohp@lwfjerusalem.org indicating that you have sent a check or transferred funds electronically. Be sure to clearly indicate the amount and that the funds are intended for the MOHP. Please provide us with your name, address, phone, email, and congregation name and city.

 

Note to U.S. residents!:

If you are from the USA you may wish to contribute to the Mount of Olives Housing Project through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Indicate “GMG0502 Mount of Olives Housing Project” if donating through the ELCA mission fund. Due to our experiences in 2015 with long delays in the mail service and even undelivered mail, donors in the USA and Canada are encouraged to send checks (payable to "The Lutheran World Federation") to the Lutheran Church in Maryland and the church will ensure delivery to the LWF Jerusalem Program:

Hope Lutheran Church
Attention: LWF Jerusalem Program
4201 Guilford Drive
College Park, Maryland 20740
Rev. Mark B. Brown
A Note from the LWF Jerusalem Program Representative

The Mount of Olives Housing project has been faced with many challenges and obstacles over the past 10 years. One of the largest has been securing permits to build the proposed project. I am proud to announce that in 2015, the Mount of Olive Housing Project received a construction line to continue forward with the proposed project. In early 2016, a feasibility study was conducted by Pricewaterhouse Cooper, confirming the need for the affordable housing for Christians in Jerusalem, and the long-term financial viability. The architectural firm selected for the project is finalizing plans with the Jerusalem Municipality. As of July 2016, one-third of the required funds for the project have been raised. We hope the faithful support will continue to help keep Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem. 

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