Release release – Petition: Nature and Parks Authority discriminate against residents of Silwan at the Gihon Spring

On Thursday, October 4, the residents of Silwan and the organization Emek Shaveh filed a petition against the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and the Elad Association. The petition demanded the cessation of the discrimination policy in the Gihon Spring, and that the Palestinian and non-Jewish residents of Silwan be allowed to enter the Gihon Spring freely and without charge, in the same manner as the settlers of City of David and their associates are able.

According to Muslim tradition, the waters of the Gihon Spring are holy like the Zamzam Spring in Mecca. Pilgrims returning from the hajj used to go to the Gihon Spring and then pray on the Temple Mount. The residents of Silwan had a tradition of using and bathing in the spring water before weddings, during family events, on Weekends and on holy days.

The Gihon Spring, also known as Maryam’s Spring or the Spring of the Virgin, is sacred to Christians and is identified with the spring used by Mary the mother of Jesus.

In the 1990s, Elad association began to demand payment for entry to the spring and later closed the gate. The entrance to the spring is through Warren’s Shaft in the City of David. On Sabbaths and during Jewish holidays, however, the settlers of the City of David enter it through another structure owned by Elad and ritually immerse themselves in the spring. Since this is a holy site that should be open to all, barring entry to non-Jews is discriminatory to the Palestinian residents who are prevented from entering the site.

This is another case in which the INPA is not supervising the activities of Elad, which acts as if it owns the place, discriminating and excluding entire groups of people from public and holy areas belonging to all.