Illegal renovations of the late Jordanian King Hussein’s partially built summer
villa, whose concrete shell was abandoned following the Six Day War, were halted
after workers began building a fence around the building last week.
site, located north of Jerusalem and believed to be the site of King Saul’s
ancient palace and the capital of the tribe of Benjamin, is an archeological
park that belongs to the Israel Lands Authority. Like other politically
sensitive sites, no work has been done on the site since 1967, to honor the
delicate status quo.
Chaim Silberstein, CEO and founder of Keep
Jerusalem, notified the police and the Jerusalem municipality when he saw
tractors and workers pouring cement at the site on Thursday. Silberstein
regularly brings groups to the site for an educational tour of the Jerusalem
“I went up to the manager, and I asked him what they were
doing, and he said, ‘I work for the Wakf, this is our property, it’s too
dangerous and we’re fencing it in,’” Silberstein told The Jerusalem Post
The Wakf Islamic trust, which is overseen and financed by the
Jordanian government, has retained control over some Muslim holy sites in
Jerusalem, such as Al-Aksa Mosque plaza.
King Hussein of Jordan decided
to build a summer villa on the site in the 1960s, owing to the site’s
spectacular views of the rolling Jerusalem hills, making it a very strategic
After the Six Day War, construction was halted, and the
building has remained an empty concrete structure for more than 40 years. Over
the decades, the area has been used by prostitutes and drug dealers, and the
building is crumbling.
Any renovation work on the building would require
a permit from the municipality. The municipality told the media they had not
issued any permits for the building.
“This is the site of the ancient
Givat Shaul, it’s the second most important archeological site in Jerusalem
after the City of David,” Silberstein said. “They are trying to remove Jewish
connections and exert Palestinian sovereignty in east Jerusalem, and that’s not
something we want,” he said.
Repeated attempts to contact the Wakf were
According to Silberstein, who notified a bevy of right-wing
activists and Knesset members of the illegal renovations, the renovation work
was halted at the end of last week. Silberstein said in the future he wanted to
see the area renovated for tourists and archeologists.