State to appeal against Elad control of Jerusalem archaeology center

The Elad Foundation, also known as the Ir David Foundation, operates the City of David National Park, which draws more than 500,000 tourists annually.

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December 6, 2015 03:59
3 minute read.
Motti Mizrahi

Motti Mizrahi’s five-meter-tall wedding dress flaps in the wind above the Citadel’s ramparts; on the biennale’s last day in November, it will be set free to drift over the Old City skyline. (photo credit: RICKY RACHMAN)

 
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Less than two months after the Jerusalem District Court approved an agreement to transfer management of the capital’s Davidson Center Archaeological Park to the right-wing Elad Foundation, the state attorney on Thursday requested permission to appeal the decision.

Emek Shaveh, a left-wing consortium of European-funded archaeologists representing Arab residents of Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, which has unsuccessfully attempted to block the move, praised the development as a “step in the right direction.”

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“The state’s decision to appeal to the High Court is a step… to safeguard the heritage of Jerusalem, and maintain the status quo in the area around the Temple Mount/ al-Aksa compound,” said spokesman and archeologist Yonathan Mizrachi.

The Elad Foundation, also known as the Ir David Foundation, operates the City of David National Park, which draws more than 500,000 tourists annually.

The Davidson Center is an archeological park situated alongside the Southern Wall, and part of the Western Wall, of the Temple Mount. Remains from some of the most important periods in the history of Jerusalem were discovered in this area, dating from the 7th century BCE through the late Islamic periods.

At the beginning of 2014, a contract was signed between Elad and the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, which stipulated that management of the Davidson Center would be transferred to Elad.

In March 2014, Emek Shaveh petitioned the Attorney General to prevent the implementation of the agreement.



The following month, the State Attorney appealed to the court against the agreement between Elad and the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, and won the decision in the Jerusalem Magistrate Court.

However, following an appeal by Elad to the District Court, Elad’s position was upheld, allowing it to take over management of the center.

“If the management of the Davidson Center ends up in the hands of the Elad Foundation,” Mizrachi alleged on Thursday, “it would mean that settlers with a right-wing agenda would be given control over a large antiquities site located in the most sensitive place in the region.”

“Assuming that the foundation will operate in the Davidson Center in the same manner as it does in the City of David, it is predicted that it will invest millions in archeological excavations and the development of a tourism site that will reflect a nationalist and religious Jewish agenda.”

Ze’ev Orenstein, Elad’s director of international affairs, dismissed Mizrachi’s allegations on Thursday, citing the court’s recent unanimous ruling in favor of Elad’s management over the center as “valid and binding.”

“Recently, a three judge panel headed by the president of the Jerusalem District Court, Judge David Cheshin, issued a unanimous verdict upholding the legality of the agreement signed between Elad and the Jewish Quarter Development Company that authorizes Elad to undertake operational oversight of… the Davidson Center,” he said.

“The ruling further stated that the Elad Foundation ‘Has the necessary experience, knowledge and skills… having become the flagship, from the perspective of the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, for its successful operation of the City of David National Park.”

Moreover, Orenstein noted that Elad has been recognized “for its reputable standing in the eyes of the Supreme Court of Israel.”

“We are confident that with the completion of the legal proceedings, the Elad Foundation will bring the same measure of success that it has brought to the City of David National Park to the Davidson Center,” he said, adding that the center will reflect the history of Jerusalem as it relates to all faiths.

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