Press Release: Petition to transfer management of Silwan-Western Wall tunnel from Elad to the State
Emek Shaveh has petitioned the High Court (On April 12), asking that the State take over the management of the tunnel that connects the village of Silwan and the Western Wall. The tunnel leads to the archaeological site known as the Davidson Center and reaches the very foundations of the Temple Mount / al-Aqsa compound (see No. 4 on the map). UNESCO has declared the area as a World Heritage Site and it is one of the main foci of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Currently, the tunnel is managed by Elad foundation. The petition was filed after the Israeli High Court and the Attorney General denied Elad’s request to manage the Davidson Center, due to its historical and religious importance.
Since 2007, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has been digging a tunnel that connects the excavations in ‘Givati Parking Lot’ at the entrance to Silwan village to the Davidson Center. Elad Association manages this tunnel. In 2012 the tunnel reached beneath the Davidson Center, very close to the Mughrabi Bridge. Inside the tunnel one can see the foundations of the southern part of the Western Wall (see pictures attached).
The excavation has allowed Elad to reach the very foundations of the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa compound, to handle the tunnel’s preservation, and to manage the entry and exit. It also gave Elad a foothold at the Davidson Center. The latter is an archaeological site to the west and south of the Temple Mount / Al Aqsa compound. About a year ago, Elad came to an agreement with the Jewish Quarter Development Company, which is responsible for the Davidson Center, to transfer its management to Elad. The State opposed this agreement, and the State Attorney’s Office went to court to revoke it.
Among the State’s reasons in opposing the agreement are:
“32. This is an area of primary historical and national importance and is located in a sensitive position religiously, culturally, historically and geopolitically.
33, In these circumstances, when actions undertaken at the compound may have far-reaching implications for the State of Israel and the Jewish people, it is extremely important to leave it to the exclusive management of the State. It should be emphasized that the compound is of utter importance and sensitivity, which do not allow the transfer of its operation to a private party.”
On the basis of these principles, the agreement to transfer the management of Davidson Center to Elad was rejected, and based on this decision we demand that the Court transfer the management of the tunnel (a drainage ditch) to the State authorities.
Although the tunnel excavation was carried out by a professional archaeological body (IAA), basic archaeological methodology denounces the digging of tunnels, since this method makes it difficult to impossible to carry out scientific documentation of archaeological finds. Senior researchers in the archaeological community in Israel were opposed to the tunnel in the past, and there is scientific consensus regarding the problematic nature of the IAA’s conduct in this case.
Emek Shaveh filed the petition for the following reasons:
- Over the years, there is a constant transfer of Jerusalem’s national and international heritage to right-wing organizations, which violates the pluralistic status and character of the city.
- The excavation of the IAA adjacent to foundations of the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa compound is a dangerous political act that could intensify international and interreligious tensions in the area.
- The excavations themselves do not benefit science and research, and it is hoped that the IAA will strengthen its professional mandate and will cease dealing with excavations that are political.
- It is the duty of the State to maintain the cultural heritage assets for the benefit of all citizens of Israel as well as a plethora of communities, nations, and religions.
Davidson Center and the Exit from the Tunnel (in center, surrounded by metal bars)
Images of the tunnels:
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