Petition to the High Court of Justice: The State Must Conserve and Allocate Budgets for Non-Jewish Heritage Sites in Israel

Emek Shaveh demanded that criteria be established for budget allocations that may also apply to non-Jewish heritage sites. In response, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage claimed that the Heritage Department is entrusted solely with the conservation of Zionist heritage  Emek Shaveh and the Arab Culture Association: A “Heritage Office” may not disregard thousands of years of history and regard Zionism as the starting point for the past. Such discriminatory criteria are leading to the loss of thousands of years of history.

Arab scholars, together with Emek Shaveh and the Arab Culture Association, petitioned the High Court of Justice last week against the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage’s discriminatory policy in budgeting heritage sites. In the petition, organizations demanded the issuance of an order nisi to freeze the Ministry’s call for proposals, which contains discriminatory criteria that excludes non-Jewish historical sites from qualifying for funding. The call for proposals requires sites to present their value in relation to a Zionist historical figure or to the historical and religious “sources”.

In response to Emeh Shaveh’s petition, the office’s legal advisor claimed that “the Ministry was established with the aim of conserving the country’s national and Zionist heritage.” That is, according to the legal advisor, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage is entrusted exclusively with the conservation of the country’s Jewish-related heritage.

Emek Shaveh’s report Selective Conservation, indicates that the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage has never issued tenders for the development of non-Jewish heritage sites. Among the 150 sites included in the initial list of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage’s flagship “Landmarks Program,” no sites whatsoever reflect exclusively non-Jewish heritage.

Emek Shaveh and the Arab Culture Association’s response: We live in a country rich in history and testimonies to different nations, cultures, and religions. It is the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage’s responsibility to conserve and present these testimonies to the public. The Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage is not the “Ministry of Zionist Heritage.” The Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage has abandoned its responsibility to other nations and cultures that shaped the history of this country, as if they were not part of its history. Hundreds of sites in Israel that do not tell Jewish stories, are in grave physical condition that requires ongoing preservation and maintenance, so as to prevent their permanent disappearance from the landscape. The history of the country is eroding along with them. We are appealing to the court to stop institutionalized discrimination through discriminatory criteria put forth in calls for proposals. Residents of the country deserve to know the history of other nations that lived and live in Israel. Their heritage is part of our heritage.