Putting an end to Elad’s religious discrimination at the Gihon Spring

The appeal by Emek Shaveh and the residents of Silwan to the District Court against the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Elad Foundation has resulted in a decision to allow equal entry for all who wish to bathe in the spring

According to Muslim tradition, the waters of the Gihon Spring in Silwan are sacred. The residents of Silwan had a tradition of using and bathing in the waters of the spring before weddings, during family celebrations, weekends and holidays.

The spring is managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and operated by the Elad Foundation. In the 1990s, Elad started charging entrance fees to the spring and later closed the gate from the plaza of the spring, making it possible to enter only through Warren’s Shaft, via the City of David. However, on weekends and holidays, the settlers of the City of David use this public site as their private spring.

In the appeal, we claimed that since the site is considered a sacred site it must be open to everyone. Preventing Palestinian residents from entering the site is discriminatory conduct. In the framework of the appeal, the Nature and Parks Authority admitted to the discriminatory policies at the site, which have been in effect for many years; and that by making private use of this public asset that was handed to it for safeguarding, the Elad Foundation has been discriminating against the Palestinian residents of Silwan. In their response, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Elad Foundation declared that they would stop making private use of the site. Bathing in the spring will be coordinated in advance and will be allowed on an equal basis for everyone.

The High Court of Justice is currently hearing another case in which the Elad Foundation is excluding and distancing the residents of Silwan from public spaces by closing them while the site is inactive. In this case, the Court demanded that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority explain why the conditions for running the City of David National Park, which is managed by the Elad Foundation, are different from those of other open national parks.

Emek Shaveh’s Response: We welcome the decision. However, one must not forget that such discrimination has been ongoing for many years and has been allowed because the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has not been overseeing the Elad Foundation, a private foundation with a political agenda, which does whatever it pleases with the site.