Steinitz tries to keep Ammunition Hill site open

Site director says he cannot pay salaries after he was ordered to stop charging admission fees last year.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
February 18, 2012 23:46
2 minute read.
Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem

Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem 390. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Yydl)

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is making a last-ditch effort to keep the memorial and museum at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem from closing. The director of the site, Katri Maoz, announced last week that the area would close on Monday due to lack of funds.

The Paratroop Brigade fought a fierce battle there against the Jordanian Arab Legion on June 6, 1967, during the Six Day War. The victory on the hilltop was a turning point in the army’s campaign for Jerusalem.

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Since the state comptroller forbade the site from collecting entrance fees two years ago, it has struggled financially. Ammunition Hill is classified as a government site, and therefore must be open to the public free of charge.

Approximately 200,000 people visit each year, including 80,000 soldiers, Maoz said. The NIS 15 tickets formerly allowed the site to maintain a museum, amphitheater, events hall, educational center, several memorials and an interactive light show. Maoz said it needs NIS 2 million a year to operate, but the Defense Ministry only budgeted NIS 910,000 for 2012.

On Friday, Steinitz announced that he ordered the head of his ministry’s budgets department to find money to keep the memorial and museum open.

“This is one of the most important sites commemorating Israel’s history,” he said in a statement released by his office. “It is important that every child, and every citizen, visits it. I will make every effort to prevent its closure.”

But Maoz said on Saturday night he had yet to hear from Steinitz’s office and was worried that the announcement was only a gesture made to appease the public. Ammunition Hill still plans to close its doors at 5 p.m. on Monday following a beret graduation ceremony for paratroopers.

If no solution is found, families who lost soldiers in the battle during the Six Day War will hold a quiet ceremony where they will take down the giant Israeli flag that flies on top of Ammunition Hill, said Maoz. It will be the first time that the national flag has been absent since 1967. Moaz added that the families will fold the flag and bring it to the Prime Minister’s Residence in protest until funding is found for the site.

“There won’t be a demonstration, we’re not trying to yell or make noise,” Maoz said. “The idea is that the subject is painful enough that it should speak for itself. There are kids who were just a few months old when their parents were killed... [This sends the message that] what that their parents did for Jerusalem and the State of Israel was not enough.”

Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.


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