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Pisgav Zeev settlement in Jerusalem—‘Anata Palestinian refugee camp walled off in the distance


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Terrestrial Jerusalem’s New Settlement Tracker Reveals the Galloping Implementation of the State-Settler Agenda


Jerusalem Story sat down with Daniel Seidemann, executive director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli nonprofit that monitors geopolitical developments on the ground in Jerusalem, to discuss a new Terrestrial Jerusalem tool that documents significant settlement schemes in East Jerusalem.


In February 2024, Terrestrial Jerusalem unveiled its “Insiders’ Jerusalem’s Settlement Report Tracking the Settlement Plans in East Jerusalem,” a list of noteworthy settlement-related developments in the city, including roads, parks, demolitions, and housing units. The table is not an exhaustive database of every East Jerusalem settlement, but rather highlights plans that will have the greatest impact on the wider situation.

As the report itself states,

In recent months, the pace with which settlement schemes have been advancing through the statutory processes that advance them towards final approval and implementation has been frenetic. That pace has been so intense that even those who follow these developments have found it difficult to keep abreast of them. The report is meant for the savviest of Jerusalem settlement experts and those who wish to gather a general overview of recent events.1

We spoke with Daniel Seidemann, founder of Ir Amim and executive director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, about why the tool was created and key insights he has taken from it thus far.

This interview, conducted May 16, 2024, was edited for length and clarity.

Daniel Seidemann, executive director, Terrestrial Jerusalem

Daniel Seidemann, executive director, Terrestrial Jerusalem


Courtesy of Daniel Seidemann

Jerusalem Story: What is Terrestrial Jerusalem’s new settlement tracking tool?

Daniel Seidemann: About a year ago, we decided to put out, periodically, a report that would be constant, which would detail all the pending settlement plans in East Jerusalem. What we have is anything that significantly advances a plan towards implementation—the opening of a file, sometimes the pre-opening of a file. How it works its way through the planning committee.

The report [structure] is static. It stays the same, except that in every new report, we will highlight what has happened since the last report.

Number one, it’s a quick reference. It’s very difficult for a diplomat in a consulate or representative office to come into town and within three weeks report about what’s happening in Jerusalem with any kind of authority, and this is an attempt to make that more coherent and accessible for them.

It’s also very useful in the following sense as well. You’ll hear that settlements in East Jerusalem have accelerated enormously since the [Israeli Prime Minster] Netanyahu regime entered. And the fact of the matter is, it’s clear that this government is pursuing this, but with only a couple of exceptions, all of these things already existed under the [previous] Lapid-Bennett government. This is not to say, “Look, it’s not so bad, it was already happening.” No. Rather, it’s important to know that these plans are embedded in the Israeli rule over East Jerusalem, regardless of who the government is.

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“These plans are embedded in the Israeli rule over East Jerusalem, regardless of who the government is.”

Daniel Seidemann, executive director, Terrestrial Jerusalem

JS: From using this tool, what are some of the underlying trends emerging in relation to settlements?

DS: There are two things, easily identifiable. There is a government plan to encircle the Old City with settlements and settlement-related projects. A billion shekels have been invested in that. We have the budget. It’s not covert, but it’s being done very discreetly. And there is clearly a correlation between where settlement developments are and this project. It’s not just another illegal settlement, which is bad enough. This is something that is undermining the character of Jerusalem. It’s a major shift in the character of the city.

We’ve just produced a three-dimensional model of Jerusalem. And in our model, all of Jerusalem’s holy sites are illuminated in the color of the denomination with which they’re associated [Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc.]. It’s breathtaking. We were only about to fit 450 of the sites onto the map—there were more than 700. And as we were receiving this, I was making maps of all the pending settlement and settlement-related projects in the visual basin of the Old City. And it just dawned on me that the model is what Jerusalem is, and the map I made of all the settlement projects—something like 50—destroys what the model displays. What we are working on now is how we can possibly illuminate that, literally and figuratively.

It’s extremely powerful to say—look at what Jerusalem is, more than 100 Jewish holy sites, more than 200 Muslim sites, more than 270 Christian sites. And that is what is being jeopardized by turning all of this area over to the biblically motivated [Jewish] settlers.

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A view of the Jerusalem’s Old City skyline showing holy sites, April 4, 2013

A view of the Old City skyline showing key important Muslim and Christian holy sites, including the golden Dome of the Rock and the silver dome of the Armenian Church of Our Lady of the Spasm, shown here on April 4, 2013


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JS: Are there any other significant trends that you’ve noticed?

DS: There are two major developments. First, the settlements that have been advanced—most are in the historic basin of the Old City, places like Kidmat Tzion [see With Eyes on Gaza, City Fast Tracks New Settlement That Will Foreclose Future Palestinian Capital in Abu Dis].

The second development is a major change. In 1967, the government of Israel decided we will settle East Jerusalem, but we will not settle inside existing Palestinian neighborhoods. That decision has held with the major exception of the fact that [settler groups] Elad and Ateret Cohanim are proxies of the government, and they could not have achieved what they’ve achieved without the government.

We now have six places [where settlements have been established or planned in Palestinian neighborhoods], two of which I believe are already in the planning process and one approved: Givat HaShaked, Umm Lison, Sheikh Jarrah, Beit Hanina (and I don’t know where that site is, I suspect we will find it is an area under settlement of land title).

An 1854 drawing of Jerusalem’s Holy Basin by English painter Thomas Seddon, showing the Old City and the valley to its east
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A year ago, this was only an idea. [Now,] this is happening, and this is a major shift.

The needle keeps on moving.


[Editor’s Note: Terrestrial Jerusalem is in the process of updating the settlement tracker and uploading it to its website. We will share the new link once that happens.]

“The needle keeps on moving.”

Daniel Seidemann, executive director, Terrestrial Jerusalem


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