Elad management of City of David tunnel challenged in court

European-funded group calls involvement of Ir David Foundation a "dangerous political act."

A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Emek Shaveh, an organization of archeologists and activists dedicated to the role of archeology in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday for the state to take over management of a tunnel that connects Silwan and the Western Wall from a right-wing NGO.
The tunnel, which leads to the archeological site known as the Davidson Center and reaches the foundations of the Temple Mount, is managed by The Ir David Foundation (Elad), founded in the 1980s to acquire the former homes of Jewish families who fled Silwan after the 1936 riots.
In a statement, Emek Shaveh described the foundation’s management of the tunnel as a “dangerous political act” that will increase conflict in the capital. It added that the Antiquities Authority has overseen the digging of the tunnel since 2007.
“Over the years, there is a constant transfer of Jerusalem’s national and international heritage to right-wing organizations, which violates the pluralistic status and character of the city,” Emek Shaveh said in a statement announcing its petition.
“The excavation of the IAA [the Antiquities Authority] adjacent to foundations of the Temple Mount/Al-Aksa compound is a dangerous political act that could intensify international and interreligious tensions in the area.”
The ongoing excavation, the statement continued, has allowed Elad to “reach the very foundations of the Temple Mount/Al-Aksa compound, to handle the tunnel’s preservation, and to manage the entry and exit,” giving it a “foothold at the Davidson Center.
“In these circumstances, when actions undertaken at the compound may have far-reaching implications for the State of Israel and the Jewish people, it is extremely important to leave it to the exclusive management of the state.”
On the basis of these principles, Emek Shaveh said, an agreement to transfer management of the Davidson Center to Elad was previously rejected by the state.
Asked to comment on the petition, Ze’ev Orenstein, director of international affairs for Elad, issued a brief statement saying the organization will promptly respond in court to the allegations after reviewing its contents.
“Upon receiving a copy of the petition, it will be studied by the organization, after which our response will be presented to the court,” he said.
According to NGO Monitor, in 2013 Emek Shaveh received NIS 228,120 from Norway, NIS 94,329 from Switzerland, as well as indirect government funds from the Netherlands and Switzerland.