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Geography of Israel: Ma'ale Adumim

Ma’ale Adumim is a suburb of Israel’s capital, barely three miles outside Jerusalem’s city limits, a ten-minute drive away. It was established by 23 families on a hilltop about 1,500 feet above sea level overlooking the Judean desert, the Jerusalem Hills, Mt. Scopus and the Mount of Olives in 1975. The name refers to the reddish hues of the rock formations along the route from the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem. Ma’ale Adumim is described in the Book of Joshua (15:6-18) as a border area between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

Launched by 23 pioneer families on the seventh night of Chanukah in 1975, Ma'aleh Adumim became a local council in 1979. As a result, the settlement received official recognition and now operates within the framework of a municipality.

From fewer than two dozen families, the outpost grew to 20,000 just 20 years later. In 1991, the government declared Ma’ale Adumim the first official city in Judea and Samaria, and today it is the largest Jewish city in the territories, with a population of 40,000. Most of the city’s residents are middle class and traditional; approximately 20 percent are religious (and are served by 28 synagogues). About 15 percent come from the United States, another 15 percent are from the former Soviet Union.

The city is attractive because it is clean, safe, and close to where many residents work. In 2003, a 1.8 mile road was finished that connected the city with Jerusalem, making it even easier to commute to Israel’s capital. The city has also twice won the national prize for environmental quality and features 275 acres of green space, dozens of playgrounds, and outdoor sculptures. Housing prices are also significantly lower than in Jerusalem itself.

The area doesn’t have much in the way of tourist attractions besides the Martyrius Monastery. During the Byzantine period, the monk Martyrius built a monastery overlooking river beds, the Judean Dessert and the Dead Dea. The city does have a swimming pool, a country club, a library and a shopping mall, as well as one of Israel’s largest industrial zones, home to more than 100 companies.

Approximately 6,000 people live in surrounding settlements that are included in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc, the largest of which is Kfar Adumim.

According to the Clinton peace plan, Ma’ale Adumim was to be part of Israel - a point agreed upon by the Palestinian Authority - and the city no lies within the Israeli side of the security fence. For many years, the Israeli government has planned to fill in the gap between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim - referred to as the E1 project - by building in the East-1 (E1) corridor that lies between the two cities. Comprising approximately 3,250 mostly uninhabited acres, the E1 plan calls for the construction of residential homes, commercial, industrial, and tourism buildings, as well as a nature reserve.

Sources: Ma’ale Adumim