The High Court of Justice dismissed a petition to stop the Ir David Foundation
from operating the City of David Archeological Park outside Jerusalem’s Old City
Walls, concluding a three-year legal saga.
The Ir Amim organization filed
the petition in July 2010, alleging that the contract between the Israel Nature
and Parks Authority and the private Ir David organization was illegal because
the area is a national park and should be public.
Ir Amim charged that Ir
David’s political agenda meant it was ignoring the Arab history of the site, and
that this created a conflict of interest.
In October, the High Court
ruled that the contract between the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Ir
David could continue with some changes, clarifying that major decisions are the
responsibility of the INPA but the day-to-day operations are run by Ir
With the court’s dismissal of the petition on Monday, Ir David and
the INPA will sign a new three-year contract.
Changes in the new contract
include provisions that allow non-Ir David Foundation guides to operate inside
the park and a clarification of the respective responsibilities of INPA and Ir
Additionally, the text of the contract between INPA and Ir David
was revealed during the legal proceedings. Previously, the contract had been
secret; it was revealed as a result of the court case, Ir Amim director Yehudit
Oppenheimer said in October.
The City of David Park, located south of the
Temple Mount, contains archeological ruins from the First Temple
The park has long been a source of tension between the Ir David
Foundation and the Arab residents of the Silwan neighborhood, who say it
encroaches on their land. Ir David supports Jewish residents in the
predominantly Arab neighborhood in addition to developing the archeological
Ir David Foundation spokesman Udi Ragones said he was not surprised
that the court denied the petition.
“We knew the contract was fine,” he
said, adding that the petition was part of a delegitimization campaign from
left-wing organizations and he expected to face additional legal challenges from
Ir Amim said it was disappointed that the court had not
terminated the contract between INPA and Ir David, but hailed the case as a
positive step because some of Ir David’s powers at the site were
“We will continue to monitor to ensure the precise
implementation of the ruling and will utilize all legal means at our disposal to
work against the transfer of authority at the City of David to Elad’s [the Ir
David Foundation’s] control without a tender and without proper procedures, with
great harm to the population living in the area,” Ir Amim said on
The City of David site receives around 450,000 visitors a year,
up from 2,000 in 2001, according to Ragones.
The site is part of the
national park surrounding the Old City Walls, which was established in 1974 by
the Interior Ministry and encompasses 110 hectares (about 270 acres).