Palestinians on Pilgrimage Road inauguration: Israel falsifying history

Jordan also condemns opening of "Pilgrimage Road."

‘I FOUND myself on an exclusive tour of an ancient road dug out from beneath the village of Silwan and the now well-known water channel.’ (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
‘I FOUND myself on an exclusive tour of an ancient road dug out from beneath the village of Silwan and the now well-known water channel.’
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US Middle East Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt attended the inauguration of Pilgrimage Road in the City of David on Sunday, triggering angry denunciations from Palestinian and left-wing circles for taking part in a “settler project.”
Education Minister Rafi Peretz, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, US Senator Lindsey Graham, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Israel Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson and US billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were also among those present at the event.
Friedman wielded a sledgehammer and broke through a wall, ceremoniously opening the tunnel. “The City of David brings biblical Jerusalem back to life,” he said. “It enables every one of us to stroll the corridors where the ancient prophets of Israel gave voice to revolutionary ideals of freedom, liberty and human dignity.
“It is our unique privilege as Americans to walk together with our Israeli counterparts on the just unveiled Pilgrimage Road, where our shared ancestors ascended the flagstone steps in prayer and blessing,” he said.
Palestinians and Jordan strongly condemned the inauguration of Pilgrimage Road, calling it a “falsification of history” and “reversal of the facts.”
They also denounced the participation of Friedman and Greenblatt in the ceremony. Palestinian Authority “Governor” of Jerusalem Adnan Gheith said that the participation of the US officials in the ceremony reflects the US administration’s “hostility” against the Palestinians and “denial of Palestinians’ national rights.”
He also accused the US administration of supporting the “colonial settler project spearheaded by the extremist Right in the state of occupation.”
Gheith claimed that the Israeli archaeological excavations pose a “direct threat to al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings,” and warned that the excavations could lead to the collapse of parts of the mosque.
The PA Foreign Ministry in Ramallah denounced Friedman and Greenblatt as “false witnesses,” and said they “volunteered to support the falsification of history and the Judaization of Jerusalem.”
The ministry accused Israel of working to change the identity of Jerusalem and its historical and legal reality.
Fakhri Abu Diab, an east Jerusalem activist from Silwan, called on the international community to “preserve the Palestinian heritage.” He was quoted by the PA’s official news agency Wafa as saying that US President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century,” “was being implemented underground.”
Abu Diab said the archaeological excavations have already caused damage to several houses and a mosque in Silwan.
Wafa quoted Palestinian engineer and academic Jamal Amro as saying that the inauguration ceremony was a “new crime” against the Palestinians because it “consolidates the concept that Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is entirely above the ground and under it.”
According to Amro, the opening of Pilgrimage Road is an attempt to “impose the Israeli narrative, falsify history and impose its sovereignty on the ground by force.”
Jordan also condemned the opening of Pilgrimage Road, and warned that “such illegal and irresponsible actions increase tension” in the region.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said that the kingdom rejects “all Israeli attempts to change the identity and character of the Old City of Jerusalem, especially the Noble Sanctuary [Temple Mount] and adjacent sites.”
The ministry said, “These Israeli practices constitute a flagrant violation of international law and UN resolutions calling for a cessation of all illegal Israeli excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
Earlier, Friedman and Greenblatt slammed the activists who had protested their cooperation in the event, with Friedman saying the discovery “brings truth and science to a debate that has been marred too long by myths.”
He argued that this discovery, among others, will “bring an end to the baseless efforts to deny the historical fact of Jerusalem’s ancient connection to the Jewish people.”
The event was also hotly contested by activists from the NGO Emek Shaveh, who argued that due to its location in east Jerusalem, the decision to excavate the find was motivated by politics rather than searching for historical truth.
Greenblatt said that Emek Shaveh activists “misunderstand the meaning of archaeology,” and said “Peace can only be built on truth.”
Pilgrimage Road was discovered in 2004 when a sewage pipe burst and workers found long and wide stairs near to the water pool Jewish pilgrims used to purify themselves before ascending to the Temple.
The road now offers visitors the chance to walk the ancient path of Jewish pilgrims from the ritual pool – the Shiloah – to the Western Wall.
Hagay Hacohen and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.