Press release: Tourist Center at the “Spring House” Beit HaMaayan

The Elad organization has recently (January 2014) deposited plans for construction of the tourist compound above the Spring House in the Village of Silwan (City of David).[1] The plans include approval for the existing construction, and preparation of an area that will serve visitors to the City of David site, including joining the excavation areas, which are currently not connected, into a contiguous  entity. The planned building area is up to 1,200 sq. m. The Spring House is a key site in the City of David excavations, even though it is located outside the area of the Jerusalem Walls National Park – City of David. Ostensibly there is no justification for establishing a tourist center outside of the national park, but the archaeological excavations serve as a key means for rationalizing its inclusion in the City of David site.

The “Spring House” (no. 7 on the enclosed map) is an ancient structure built above the main spring in the Village of Silwan, known as Um al-Darej, or as the Gihon Spring. The spring and the structure are located at a central intersection that joins the City of David Site with the Kidron Valley Promenade and the Mount of Olives. The structure is located between the Kidron Promenade from the north, the Al-Bustan neighborhood to the south (no. 14 on the map), and excavation and tourist areas such as Warren’s Shaft (no. 6) and Area G to the west (no. 4). A central tourist compound, known as the Kedem Compound, is slated for construction above the Givati Parking Lot (no. 2). Examining the placement of the excavations and the planned tourist centers reveals a contiguous line along the entire northern boundary of the Village of Silwan. The archaeological excavations and tourist route thus create a barrier between the village and the Old City of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount / Haram a-Sharif.

The spring in the Village of Silwan has for hundreds of years served as a source of water for residents, and later as a recreational spot for children and parents. The spring is identified as a holy place in both Judaism and Christianity, and it was therefore decided to exclude it from the national park. Since 1995, archaeological excavations have taken place at the site, the most protracted excavations ever conducted in Jerusalem, and the area has been expropriated from the village for needs of the settlers and the City of David tourist site.

beit hamaayan1   beit hamaayan2

Excavations in the area known as the Spring House have exposed remains of towers and walls from the earliest beginnings of the city of Jerusalem, and from the Middle Bronze Age IIb  – 18th-17th c. BCE. These remains are an important testimony to the beginnings of Jerusalem as a city with a central government.[2] Above this layer are shards and other remains from the Bronze Age and the late Moslem periods (Mamluk and Ottoman Periods).[3]

Over the years, news items have appeared in the media regarding various discoveries at the excavation site. The publications have focused on structures from the Middle Bronze Age, as well as discoveries identified with the Kingdom of Judah, such as a shard with an inscription in ancient Hebrew, and figurines and other objects dated to this period.[4] Publication of the discoveries in the media is one of the ways in which the settlers and Israeli authorities gain public and political support for excavations at the site. It is easier in this manner to market to the public the need for a tourist compound there, even though archaeological excavations are best served by refraining from building on them.

In recent years, we have been witness to many cases in which excavation areas have served as a basis for construction. Noteworthy examples in addition to the plan for the Kedem Compound, which will be erected at the Givati Parking Lot: Beit Haliba, to be established at the Western Wall Plaza atop an archaeological excavation area; construction of a new bridge ascending to the Temple Mount, preceded by the excavations at the Mughrabi Bridge; the new tourist compound in Silwan.[5]


[1] Ir-David Foundation, “Beit Hamayan” on Vimeo

[2] See video clip “Fortifications of the Gihon Spring at the City of David,” City of David, 2011. In Heb

[3]  R. Reich and E. Chukrun, “History of the Gihon Spring,” Eretz Yisrael 25 – Teddy Kollek Volume, 2007, 212-217.

[5] Y. Mizrachi, Remaking the City, Emek Shaveh, November 2013

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