City of David 521.
(photo credit: Courtesy City of David)
The City of David Foundation (Elad) can continue to operate the City of David
Archaeological Park in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, the High Court of
Justice decided on Wednesday.
The left-wing group Ir Amim filed a
petition in July 2010 to challenge the private organization’s right to manage a
national park, as well as an allegedly secret contract between the National
Parks Authority and Elad, a right-wing organization that supports Jewish
residents in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Silwan.
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charged that Elad’s political agenda was ignoring the Arab history of the site
and creating a conflict of interest.
The City of David Park, which holds
archeological ruins from the First Temple Period, has long been a source of
tension between Elad and the Arab residents of Silwan, who accuse the park of
encroaching on their land.
The court found that the contract between the
National Parks Authority and Elad could continue with some changes. Elad and the
NPA are due to sign a new contract in March 2012.
The court also
clarified that while Elad is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the park,
the site’s administration, including major decisions, remained the
responsibility of the National Parks Authority.
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Ir Amim hailed the ruling
as an important step. “Of course I’d want to go further and have the courts
decide if Elad really needs to be there at all, but the way we’re living now,
Elad had unchecked power,” said Yudith Oppenheimer, the director of Ir Amim. She
added that the courts sent a clear message that public assets, such as national
parks, “belong in the hands of the public.”
If a draft of the new
contract, which makes changes such as officially allowing guides not associated
with Elad to lead tours in the park, meets the courts’ approval in January, then
the petition will be dismissed.
The contract between Elad and the NPA had
been secret but it was revealed as a result of the court case, said Oppenheimer,
clarifying the relationship between the NPA and Elad.
Elad spokesman Udi
Ragones said he was also satisfied with the decision, and that representatives
from the municipality, the Environmental Defense Ministry, the NPA, and the
Israel Antiquities Authority, supported Elad’s continued operation of the site.
“All of the important groups agreed that it’s important that Elad continue,
because only with Elad can the site continue to develop as it has,” said
“The site has really succeeded and gone from a neglected site to
a really big tourism attraction… Even Ir Amim said it was the second most
important place in Jerusalem,” said Ragones. “Twenty years ago, no one
The City of David Park hosts around 450,000 visitors a year,
up from 2,000 visitors in 2001.
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