JERUSALEM — On a blistering afternoon in the hills west of Jerusalem, Israelis from all walks of life swam in spring-fed pools and picnicked in the shade of fig trees in a bucolic refuge known as Ein Lavan, as they have done for years.
But they may not have much longer to enjoy it.
Developers want to build a neighborhood of 5,000 homes, a hotel and a business district atop Lavan Ridge, a stone’s throw away.
This is no ordinary land-use battle between builders and conservationists. Supporters of the project insist they are motivated not by profit but by the desire to finance sorely needed urban renewal in Kiryat Menachem, an overcrowded, low-income neighborhood nearby.
And the battle could set a precedent for similar fights. Israel, a country with the developed world’s highest fertility rate, crams 200,000 more people each year into a nation the size of New Jersey, half of it uninhabitable desert. The resulting housing crunch is creating enormous pressure to build in the dwindling green spaces.
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