Prominent archaeologists object to the “Kedem Compound” plan and to construction on ancient ruins opposite the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City

A group of prominent archaeologists from various universities, joined by Emek Shaveh and residents of the village of Silwan, have submitted an objection to the “Kedem Compound” (“The Bible Compound”) construction planned for the archaeological site in Silwan known as the “Giv’ati parking lot,” opposite the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.  The archaeologists disagree with the position of the Antiquities Authority.  The main argument is that the remains uncovered in the excavation should be publicly displayed in an open area.  Any construction would involve destruction and damage to the fabric of ancient Jerusalem.  We say that the building of the “Kedem Compound” will set a dangerous precedent in which a private entrepreneur with ties to the regime receives a permit to build in an archaeological park atop a tel containing multiple ancient archaeological strata.

After the October, 2013, release of Palestinian prisoners, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to move ahead with construction of the “Kedem Compound” (“Heichal HaTanach”) in Silwan.  This decision intends to strengthen Israel’s hold on East Jerusalem and make a statement about who owns Jerusalem and its past.  In addition to its political aspect, the building will alter the landscape of the Old City and its walls, and is unprecedented in the damage it will cause to an archaeological tel.  We have here an exceptional case in which a private entrepreneur has been granted a permit to build a massive structure on a prominent site above an important, multi-strata tel in ancient Jerusalem.

The main arguments:

  1. An archaeological site and its excavations must be managed for the benefit of the public.  Displaying the finds inside a closed building will damage Jerusalem’s role as a world heritage site and the preservation activities planned for the area.  The building will also harm the residents of Silwan because it will be located in their neighborhood.
  1. The “Kedem Compound”  plan contravenes decisions of the district planning commission.  Various aspects of the plan also contravene the commission’s decisions.  The differences between the commission’s decisions and details of the submitted plan include the lack of a preservation plan, a change to Jerusalem layout plan, extensive changes to the commercial space, etc.
  1. It is impossible to construct a complex of this size without damaging archaeological remains related to Jerusalem’s Old City.  Had the plan been aimed at protecting the archaeological strata there would have been no need for a massive building atop the “Giv’ati parking lot,” opposite the Old City walls.  This argument alone, detailed in the objection, is sufficient to reject the plan, if the commission intends to adhere to previous statutory decisions whose purpose is to preserve the historical character of ancient Jerusalem.
  1. We demonstrate inter alia how many times the Antiquities Authority, which is entrusted with protecting and preserving archaeological remains, failed to present a plan explaining how construction at the site will serve these remains.  It is clear that various aspects of the plan, such as the building’s foundations, the parking area, etc., will damage the remains which are visible as well as those yet uncovered.
  1. The planned construction of the “Kedem Compound” represents a dangerous precedent of building atop an important, multi-strata antiquities site located in close proximity to Jerusalem’s Old City.  The precedent will open the way to other construction initiatives around the Old City walls which will damage the archaeological remains that make such an important contribution to the landscape and to the area’s unique character.

For more information about the Kedem Compound plan, including its political implications, please click here.

An Emek Shaveh publication, “Another Future for Antiquities: Conservation of Antiquities Sites – Suggestions towards a Partial Solution of Jerusalem’s Political Problems” presents alternatives for preserving the “Giv’ati parking lot” site for the benefit of the public at large.  Read it here.

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