Press Release: Israel High Court Petition filed to prevent additional site closure in ‘City of David’ archaeological park, Silwan

 January 24, 2016

A group of Silwan residents and Emek Shaveh petitioned the Israeli High Court yesterday to prevent closure of “Area E” (No. 6 and 7 on map), the largest public area in Silwan village, located in the ‘City of David’ archaeological park. The petition was filed against the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA), which in cooperation with Elad association is gradually fencing off public spaces and archaeological areas previously open to all residents and visitors. This case joins Emek Shaveh’s objections to the closure of Area G (No. 3 on map), Elad’s management of the tunnel connecting Silwan to the Old City (ending at Davidson Center), and the construction of Kedem Center atop antiquities exposed at Givati Parking lot (No. 1 on map).

The fencing off and construction of gates in Areas E and G began in July 2015. These are archaeological areas where excavations are currently taking place, and are the largest public spaces open to Silwan residents since the British Mandate in the 1920s. The Nature and Parks Authority’s (NPA) decision to close off of public spaces for the benefit of the City of David park typifies Israel’s actions in Silwan for two decades now. In the mid-1990 the village spring ‘Ein Umm Al-Daraj / Ha-Gihon (No. 5 on map) was closed for archaeological excavations and was not accessible to residents ever since. In 2005 the NPA closed Birket al-Hamra / Pool of Siloam (No. 9 on map) at the southern end of the village, beside Al-Bustan neighborhood, and since then an entrance fee is required.

In the High Court petition, we demanded that Area E remain open to residents and the public, and that the pattern of taking over open space in the village be stopped. This includes fencing and construction that lacks an approved and clear development plan. It is the Nature and Parks Authority’s duty to care for the antiquities and historical sites for the benefit of all citizens, and not turn national parks into a tool for land appropriation and dispossession of residents.

We hope that the High Court will:

  1. Stop the take-over of Area E
  2. Require the NPA and Elad to report their development plans and how they fit with the needs of the village, and
  3. Force Elad to consider the residents’ needs in their archaeological and tourist development plans for the site.

Alongside the Area G petition filed in September, Emek Shaveh filed a High Court petition in April opposing Elad’s management of the tunnel connecting the Givati Parking Lot excavations to the Davidson Center in the Old City.

We hope that the Court returns to the village of Silwan–one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city–the public spaces that belong to them, and will allow visitors to continue to enjoy the archaeological remains without having to go through Elad.

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