Rami Levy to open new Jerusalem mall Tuesday, serving Israelis and Palestinians

Supermarket mogul known for tapping into West Bank market says that despite security concerns, demand is high in project at Atarot

Artist's conception of the new Rami Levy mall in Jerusalem's Atarot neighborhood. (Courtesy Margolin Bros. Engineering & Consulting)
Artist's conception of the new Rami Levy mall in Jerusalem's Atarot neighborhood. (Courtesy Margolin Bros. Engineering & Consulting)

Finishing touches were being being applied Sunday to Israeli business mogul Rami Levy’s latest venture, a shopping mall in the northern Jerusalem suburb of Atarot that will serve both Israelis and Palestinians.

The mall is to open on Tuesday morning, a spokesperson told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Most of Israel’s main commercial retailers are represented in the NIS 200 million ($53 million) project, which spans 25,000 square meters and 50 stores, along with a few Palestinian-run businesses. With 100 percent occupancy, Levy has applied for a permit to add another floor with several thousand square meters to the project.

“There is very high demand for the project due to the size of the surrounding population,” Levy told Globes in November. “I’m not afraid of the security situation… When we started marketing there was a reluctance on the part of the (Israeli) chains because of the location of the project, but at the end of the day they understood the great commercial potential.”

The mall sits at the tip of northeastern Jerusalem in the Atarot industrial zone, within eyeshot of Ramallah and separated from the West Bank security barrier only by a thin road. It is only a few hundred meters from the mothballed Atarot airport that closed in 2001 due to security concerns during the Second Intifada.

Israeli developer Rami Levy, who is building the first ever Israeli-Palestinian mall just a few meters from the West Bank. (Luke Tress / Times of Israel)

In total, Levy said, the mall will serve 120,000 Arab and 90,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem’s northern neighborhoods, as well as thousands of Palestinians who stream daily into the capital from the northern West Bank.

The Atarot mall is Levy’s sixth West Bank commercial venture, with the supermarkets in Gush Etzion and Shaar Binyamin having reputations as islands of coexistence where Palestinians and Israeli settlers work and shop side by side.

The new mall had to overcome threats of a Palestinian boycott, but Levy has survived repeated attempts to get Palestinians to stop shopping at his supermarkets.

A spokesperson for the real estate company marketing the project said the area has a population more than 10 times the normal Israeli ratio of people to commercial space, giving the mall a lot of potential.

“I see things from a social angle. What I have built, I built with the social aspect in mind,” Levy told The Times of Israel in a video made at the beginning of the project. “My instincts and my gut tell me this will be the most prosperous place in the country.”

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