Update—‘Kedem Compound’ and ‘Beit HaLiba’

The ‘Kedem Compound’ was approved following a hearing of objections; the Appeals Committee decided to send ‘Beit HaLiba’ to the Planning and Building Committee for additional discussion

Last Wednesday (11 June 2014) the Objections Subcommittee of the District Committee issued an official decision regarding ‘Kedem Compound,’ which is planned at the entrance to Silwan Village atop the excavation area at ‘Givati Parking Lot (No 5 in the Map).’ The Committee decided to reduce slightly the size of the building. Out of the designated 16,400 square meters, it decided to cancel the fifth floor and subtract 1,400 sqm. In other words, after hearing the objections of the villagers, Emek Shaveh, and a group of archaeologists, architects and other organizations, the Committee decided to make only minor changes to the plan and approve the majority of the developers’ requests.

In the Committee’s decision, it was  stated that the program was designed to give access and bring archeology to the public, and that the intended uses of the complex— including an auditorium, guiding spaces, and the like—are essential for the perpetuation of the historical and archaeological values of the national park. That is, in order to justify the building of a huge structure on the archaeological site, the Committee pointed out that almost all of the buildings are vital for the antiquities. The Committee noted that construction on the archaeological level will be minimal and will not exceed 3% of the site. This statement attests to the importance of preserving the archaeological level and poses an interesting challenge for the developers.

Following this decision, the next step of the objectors, including Emek Shaveh, is to appeal to the Committee and to demand discussion in the Appeals Committee of the National Planning and Building Council. The National Appeals Committee may approve the plan, or accept some of the petitioners’ claims, such as reducing the size of the building. In both cases, the appellants could approach the High Court. The third possibility is that the committee will return the program to the District Committee for reconsideration, while raising the demand for extensive corrections. Another option is, of course, cancelling the plan.

As we noted before, we in Emek Shaveh see ‘Kedem Compound’ as harmful to the archeology, the environment and the local Palestinian community, and as a major political tool for strengthening the Israeli presence in Silwan and the Old City. Emek Shaveh and the archaeologists who joined the objection will appeal the decision of the Sub-Committee of the Regional Committee.

‘Beit HaLiba’(No 7 in the Map)

In tandem with the publication of the ‘Kedem Compound’ decision, the National Appeals Committee’s decision regarding ‘Beit HaLiba,’ to be built at the Western Wall plaza, was also published. Beit HaLiba is planned as a three-story structure on top of archaeological excavations at the edge of the plaza. This structure was approved by the District Committee and the objections were rejected, thus objectors turned to the Appeal Committee of the National Planning and Building Committee. Among the objectors to the structure was a group of archaeologists, residents of the Jewish Quarter, and Islamic organizations. The National Appeals Committee indeed accepted the argument for the necessity of the building, but decided to reduce the size of the structure, and instructed to return the plan for further discussions in the Regional Planning and Building Committee. Regarding the appellants, this is an encouraging decision, which enables the public to influence the nature and scope of the intended structure, even if it does not eliminate its construction.

We have discussed the links and similarities between ‘Beit HaLiba’ and ‘Kedem Compound’ in the publication ‘Beit HaLiba’ and Givati Parking Lot: Archaeological excavations and their impact on the status quo in the Old City and Silwan. Both cases involve massive construction beginning with archaeological excavations, approval of the Israel Antiquities Authority for construction atop ancient relic, and a structure that changes the landscape and political realities around the Temple Mount / Haram al – Sharif. Despite the similarities between them, ‘Kedem Compound’ will encompass five times the space of ‘Beit HaLiba,’ and we hope that the National Appeals Committee will realize the environmental damage of the proposed plans.Silwan-Old City 2012 excavation map (Copy)