Press Release – Minister Zeév Elkin cancelled Emek Shaveh’s participation in the “Open House” Festival

Over the past week, members of the Israeli Right had approached Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Zeév Elkin, in a bid to cancel Emek Shaveh’s tours of the Muslim Cemetery in Mamilla planned for the “Open House” Festival scheduled to take place this weekend in Jerusalem (27th-28th, October). At first, the name of the organization was removed from the information brochure describing the tour, then Elkin ordered that the tour scheduled to be guided by director of Emek Shaveh Yonathan Mizrachi will be cancelled. This morning (24th October), Open House cancelled Emek Shaveh’s participation entirely without prior notice.


Emek Shaveh has been taking part in Open House Festival for a number of years now, conducting tours in the ancient Muslim cemetery in Mamilla following extensive research into the history of the site and the publication of a guide. In the two preceding festivals the tours were successful and attended by hundreds of people.


This year, following pressure by right-wing activists, it was decided to cancel Emek Shaveh’s participation in the festival. At first the festival only removed the name of  “Emek Shaveh” from  the brochure describing the tours. This was followed by a demand by Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Ze’ev Elkin, to cancel Emek Shaveh’s participation in the  festival entirely. The accusations put forward by the Right, that Emek Shaveh is acting against the State of Israel, are completely false and are based on distortions and lies.


The following is the statement by Minister Elkin on the 23rd of October:

“We are not prepared to accept the fact that government funding will be awarded to a person who claims that archaeological excavations funded by the State in the City of David and the Old City are like the Hamas tunnels, and that a representative of the organization which he leads is interviewed for films by the Islamic Movement that constitute incitement against the State of Israel. Therefore, I have resorted to a personal veto and demanded to cancel the participation of Mr. Mizrachi in a project funded by us as a government office.”


The minister threatened to withdraw funding for the Open House Festival if Open House did not cancel the tour by Mr. Mizrachi.


Emek Shaveh is determined to conduct the tours as planned, even without the umbrella of the Open House Festival and invites the public to show its commitment to Jerusalem’s multicultural heritage by attending the tours this weekend of the Muslim Cemetery in Mamilla. More details below.


The office of Minister Elkin based itself on false reports by known right-wing fomenters of incitement and a distortion of an interview with the Director of Emek Shaveh on the website “Local Call” from the 24.8.2014. In that interview, Mizrachi claimed that the tunnels in Jerusalem are being excavated without transparency and from a political point of view are more dangerous than the tunnels dug by the Hamas. The reason is the proximity of Jerusalem’s archaeological tunnels to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. This is a legitimate position, particularly in light of the fact that in 1996, the opening of a Western Wall tunnel by Netanyahu led to the outbreak of violence in which dozens were killed and hundreds injured. For years we have protested the excavation of tunnels in Jerusalem claiming that it is a political act in the guise of archaeological activity. We, in Emek Shaveh have never claimed that the tunnels dug in Jerusalem constitute terrorist activity as Elkin has accused.


The decision to cancel a tour guided by Emek Shaveh is part of the witch-hunt conducted by this right-wing government in an attempt to frighten, threaten and undermine freedom of expression in Israel. This decision is a harmful act on the part of Minister for Jerusalem Affairs aimed at obliterating Jerusalem’s multicultural heritage and the attempts to do justice to the Islamic periods in the city’s history.


Emek Shaveh invites the public to come to the tours in the Muslim cemetery in Mamilla over the weekend and learn about the Muslim heritage of the site and the city.


The tours will take place as follows: Friday at 9am (in Hebrew), at 11am (in English); and Saturday at 10am and 4pm (Hebrew). Meeting place, #3 Agron Street, next to the taxi cab station.

screenshot of before and and after: