Melanie Lidman
The Jerusalem Post
October 5, 2010 - 12:00am

After six years of construction, the American Consulate in Jerusalem will open its new facility for consular services on Rehov David Flusser in the southern Arnona neighborhood next Tuesday.

The office that previously dealt with consular services, located on Nablus Road in east Jerusalem, will remain open for consulate programs, along with the facility in west Jerusalem on Rehov Agron, and America House, a cultural outreach center in east Jerusalem.

“The [new] facility was designed to enhance the provision of consular services to American citizens and local residents,” a US Consulate representative said. Consular services include issuing passports and visas, and reporting deaths and births abroad.

There are 80,000 registered American citizens living in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which makes the Jerusalem consulate one of the US’s busiest in the world. It maintains an “e-consulate” for Gaza residents, offering most services online.

The Nablus Road facility was temporarily closed on Monday as it began the week-long relocation of services to the new building. Construction began on the new building in 2004.

In accordance with the US Department of State’s dedication to environmentally friendly buildings for its consulates, the new building features “green rooftops,” with plants on the roof that minimize storm water run-off and reduce the need for air conditioning and heating by providing additional insulation.

Despite moving the bulk of services for citizens and noncitizens away from east Jerusalem, the consulate plans to maintain a strong presence in the eastern part of the capital.

“We will continue to have programs in east Jerusalem, including at the America House,” the representative said. America House, located on Salah a-Din Street, is an outreach facility where the consulate hosts a number of cultural programs.

The Agron Street facility has been the site of conflicts with residents over the past few months. In May, a young Israeli man accused a consulate employee of attacking him late at night, and the consulate said it was cooperating with police in the ongoing investigation.

More recently, residents of Rehov Agron complained that the consulate’s cars block their driveway, but the police are powerless to intervene because of the legation’s diplomatic immunity.

“They’re blocking our driveway, and I tried to speak to them and put notes on their windshield, but no one punishes them because they have the white license plates,” Rabbi Kenny Cohen said. “It’s also annoying because they violate the law and they feel like they’re above the law.”

The US Consulate declined to comment on the issue.


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