The Expected Presence of the American Ambassador at the Dedication Ceremony for the “Pilgrims’ Road” in Silwan will be the closest the US will have come to date to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Old City Basin

On Sunday an inauguration ceremony will be held for “Pilgrims’ Road” in Silwan.  The United States Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the White House envoy to the Middle East, Special Representative for International Relations Jason Greenblatt and Israeli government ministers will participate in the event.  The event will mark the opening of a tunnel that was dug over the past six years under the homes of residents of the neighborhood and which is being presented as a road used during the Second Temple period by people on pilgrimage to the Temple.

The expected senior American presence at the event, alongside ministers of the Israeli government is a political act which is the closest the US will have come to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Old City basin of Jerusalem.  This is a further step in American support for the pro-settlement policy in Jerusalem, and particularly the touristic-settlement projects.

The gradated street (no. 10 on the map) was dug as a tunnel by the Antiquities Authority and it is part of the Israeli governments’ Shalem Plan which is intended to strengthen Israeli presence in the Old City basin through extensive tourism development and archaeological excavations in Silwan and the Old City.  The site that will be dedicated on Sunday is an ancient road which is being presented as part of the pilgrimage route to the Second Temple in the first century CE.  This in spite of the fact that the horizontal excavation method and the paucity of scientific publications does not enable us to establish with certainty when the road was built and how it fit into the layout of the city of Jerusalem.

Emek Shaveh:  The use of archaeology by Israel and the settlers as a political tool is a part of a strategy to shape the historic city and unilaterally entrench Israeli sovereignty over ancient Jerusalem. It is a process which is likely to produce devastating results for both Israel and the Palestinians.  It is inexcusable to ignore the Palestinian residents of Silwan, carrying out extensive excavations of an underground city and to use such excavations as part of an effort to tell a historic story that is exclusively Jewish in a 4,000 year-old city with a rich and diverse cultural and religious past.