Alert: Border Police with settlers raided plots of land this morning in Silwan near Pool of Siloam

*This morning border police and settlers raided plots of land adjacent to the Siloam Pool ■  According to the settlers they had purchased the land from the Greek Orthodox church in a deal two decades ago ■  Palestinians from Silwan have been leasing the land from the church since 1931 and they use it for agriculture ■ The raid coincided with a press release by the INPA the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Elad Foundation announcing the commencement of archaeological excavations to reveal the pool of Siloam in its entirety

This morning (Tuesday 27.12.22) border police forces raided the plots of land adjacent to the pool of Siloam. The plots in question were owned by the Greek Orthodox Church and leased by members of the Sumrin family in Silwan since 1931. The family possesses receipts proving it has paid rent throughout the years. The plots have been used by the family to grow agricultural produce using traditional methods. Three family members were arrested during this morning’s raid.

The raid followed a letter received by the family written by the lawyer representing the Elad Foundation on behalf of Donhead (see Danny Seidemann’s update), a company registered in the Virgin Islands affiliated with the Ateret Cohanim group in their takeover of the Imperial hotel at the Jaffa Gate area twenty years ago. According to the letter, the company says it intends to engage in an archaeological excavation in the area and that all the necessary permits for this excavation have already been issued.

Letter received by the Sumrin family from Donhead Services (company affiliated with Ateret Cohanim settler group)

In a joint press release issued this morning by the City of David Foundation, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority they announced the commencement of archaeological excavations to reveal the pool of Siloam in its entirety. According to the announcement, the public will be able to view the excavations and within the next few months the Siloam pool will open to visitors from Israel and abroad as part of a walking trail from the “south of the City of David all the way to the Western Wall”.

Silwan this morning

In a possibly related incident, a 16 year-old boy from the Sumrin family was arrested last night for allegedly tampering with a police camera.

In 2004 during municipal maintenance works in the southern part of Wadi Hilweh, an ancient pool and the remains of a 1st century drainage tunnel and Roman road leading to the  Davidson archaeological park were discovered. That year, the Antiquities Authority began excavating the pool and street in what has since been dubbed the “Pilgrim’s Route” and famously inaugurated by former Ambassador David Friedman in 2019. The excavation route runs under the homes of Palestinians living along Wadi Hilweh road (renamed by the municipality “City of David Ascent”). Two years ago we reported damage to homes along the excavation route which the residents have attributed to the ongoing excavation works taking place  beneath the homes.