Mount of Olives Housing Project

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 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 has 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 is less than 10,000 and that the Christian population in Jerusalem could be diminished to 5,000 once the Israeli Separation Wall is completed around Jerusalem. Perhaps as much 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.

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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.

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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.

It is important to place the MOHP in the context of all of the LWF and ELCJHL work over the years. The LWF, the ELCJHL, and many churches and agencies have over the last six decades been deeply committed to serving those most in need in the Holy Land. That commitment to Palestinian refugees is clearly evident today in our advocacy to end the occupation and in the health, education and vocational training programs offered by the LWF and the ELCJHL. These programs touch the lives of thousands of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In addition to the MOHP, the LWF, in cooperation with the KAVF, also plans to use a portion of the property on the Mount of Olives to build a desperately needed sports and community center that would serve the children and families of East Jerusalem.

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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.

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How much will it cost to build 84 housing units on the Mount of Olives?

The total capital investment needed for the project is 8,400,000 USD. This amount covers 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 above the 8,400,000 USD 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-run.

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How is fundraising coming along?

Over $800,000 has already been raised by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) toward its goal of two million USD, 30 million Swedish Kronor have been pledged by the Church of Sweden, and one million Euros have been pledged by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Council for Foreign Relations. The Advisory Committee received positive signs for additional support from Norway and Germany.

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

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If you don’t raise the full 8,400,000 USD right away, can you begin the project anyway?

Yes, since the construction of the project will be divided into four stages, it will be possible to begin before the total amount is raised.

  • Stage One – To include all preparation licensing, sewage and water fees, infrastructure works and roads.
  • Stage Two – To include the construction of four apartment buildings (28 apartments).
  • Stage Three – To include the construction of four apartment buildings (35 apartments).
  • Stage Four – The final phase, to include the construction of the remaining four apartment buildings (21 apartments) and community center.

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.

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

To make a contribution to the Mount of Olives Housing Project (MOHP):

Make a check out to The Lutheran World Federation and mail it to:

The Lutheran World Federation
P.O. Box 19178
Jerusalem 91191 ISRAEL

Transfer Funds Electronically

Account name: Lutheran World Federation
Account No.: 011-007010-160
Bank Name: HSBC-Middle East Bank
Bank Branch: Ramallah-West Bank
Swift Code: BBME PS 22

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.


Please make your contributions through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Indicate “GMG0502 Mount of Olives Housing Project” if donating through the ELCA mission fund.

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