A consortium of prominent Israeli archeologists joined by Emek Shaveh, a group
of community activists, have denounced the government and Antiquities
Authority’s plans to build a compound in east Jerusalem’s Silwan
The project in question, called “Kedem Compound,” is a
proposed visitors center located in the Givati Parking Lot, atop ancient ruins
opposite the walls of the Old City.
Initiated by the Elad organization, a
private contractor, it was approved in February of 2012 by the Jerusalem
District Planning and Construction Committee.
Following its passage,
Antiquities Authority Jerusalem District director, Yuval Baruch, lauded the
“This is one of the most important projects in Jerusalem in
recent generations,” said Baruch. “It would be impossible to find a serious
archeologist with a bad word to say about the conduct of the
However, the archeologists against the project argue that
any construction at the site would result in “destruction and damage to the
fabric of ancient Jerusalem” by harming relics located under the building and
contributing to the “Judaization” of east Jerusalem.
intends to strengthen Israel’s hold on east Jerusalem and make a statement about
who owns Jerusalem and its past,” a Thursday statement accompanying a petition
from the group read. “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 archeological tel.”
universities across the country, including Professors Ze’ev Herzog, Gideon
Ferster, Raphael Greenberg, Rina Talgam, Haim Goldfus, Yuval Yekutieli and
Judith Green, all signed a petition denouncing the project.
“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, multistrata
tel in ancient Jerusalem,” it stated.
In the petition the archeologists
argue that construction of the compound will “damage Jerusalem’s role as a world
heritage site and the preservation activities planned for the area.”
also claimed that the building will harm Silwan’s residents.
added that the construction plan contravenes previous decisions by the District
Planning Commission by not presenting an appropriate preservation
“It is impossible to construct a complex of this size without
damaging archaeological remains related to Jerusalem’s Old City,” the statement
continued. “Had the plan been aimed at protecting the archeological strata there
would have been no need for a massive building atop the Givati Parking Lot,
opposite the Old City walls.”
This argument alone, the statement read,
should be sufficient grounds 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.”
Moreover, the group argues
that the authority, which is entrusted with protecting and preserving
archeological remains, failed to present a plan explaining how construction at
the site will preserve them.
“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,” it
Finally, the petition claims the project will set a dangerous
precedent by permitting other construction initiatives around the Old City
walls, damaging the archeological remains that “make such an important
contribution to the landscape and to the area’s unique character.”
response the petition, authority spokesman Yoli Schwartz said Thursday that the
Antiquities Authority will provide an official statement shortly to the District
Planning and Construction Committee.