Saturday, July 11, 2009

Haifa tourism threatened by military construction

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, there is a plan to build a large building in the Haifa port, 150 meters wide and ten stories high, just below the Bahai gardens (a Unesco World Heritage site) and the German Colony, two of the city's main tourist attractions. This building would block the view to the sea.

(See picture of what it is expected to look like).

This week it has been reported that construction has started, but that later another site further east will become available for this naval building, where it would not overshadow any tourist sites. So they will first build it in the original site in the Haifa port, then tear it down once the new building is ready. No estimate was given of how many years this would take.

This seems ridiculous. If they admit that it will have an impact on the city's tourism, they should not build it at all at this site. If they build it here, the chances that it will ever be relocated to the other site are lower than if they just decided to start building in the other site as soon as possible. It is true that planning permission takes a long time to obtain in Israel, but in this case the procedure should be speeded up in order to prevent a mistake that will cost millions. But they argue that this building is urgently needed for military reasons.

One of the main problems with this story is that the purpose of this building, known as the Polynom or Polynomial, is shrouded in military secrecy. Presumably some members of the municipal planning board are allowed to know why it is so important. There have been public protests against this construction, including some led by the two green parties that stood in the recent municipal elections. But in general, the Israeli public tends to think that protesting against such decisions is likely to be hopeless, and to accept that military reasons outweigh any other considerations.

Readers of this blog considering a visit to Haifa are invited to come as soon as possible, before this blot on our sealine is completed!

No comments: