City of David Silwan Archeological site 311 R.
(photo credit: Gil Cohen Magen / Reuters)
The Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Committee gave initial approval on
Monday to a large tourism center in the Silwan neighborhood, across the street
from the City of David archeological park.
The 9,000-square meter Kedem
Center, located on the site of the old Givati parking lot, will include several
levels of underground parking, an event hall, a cafeteria, exhibition areas,
stores, public bathrooms and other services for tourists.
will be built on stilts so that the public will still be able to view the
archeological remains. The project was approved by the Local Planning and
Building Committee last month. On Monday the Interior Ministry approved
it for deposit, the first step in a long process.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir
Barkat welcomed the initial approval from the ministry.
Municipality places great importance on the development of tourism and
archeology sites in the Old City and its environs, which are visited by hundreds
of thousands of visitors and tourists each year,” a municipal spokeswoman said.
The Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are
collaborating with the municipality and the Ir David Foundation on the
According to the plan, the Givati parking lot, a 0.55-hectare
(1.36-acre) area located across the street from the Dung Gate, will eventually
become part of the Walls Around the Old City National Park. Currently, the area
is a giant hole as teams of archeologists and students have excavated it to more
than 20 meters deep. Teams also cleaned ancient drainage pipes that lead under
the Old City Walls to the Davidson Archeological Park next to the Western Wall
During the excavations, archeologists discovered artifacts from
the Roman, Late Byzantine and Second Temple period, including a 2,000-year-old
intact carving of Cupid made of blue onyx dating from the Roman
Left-wing activists condemned the project, fearing it will focus
exclusively on Jewish history, and for its location in the Arab neighborhood of
Silwan. Silwan is the site of frequent clashes between Arab residents and
a number of Jewish residents who are supported by the Ir David
“We need to remember the balance between past and present,”
said Yonathan Mizrachi, the head of Emek Shaveh, an activist archeology
organization that promotes the Arab history of the area. “This archeological
site is part of Silwan, and part of building this complex is to ignore how [the
City of David Park] has impacted the residents and their lives,” he
Also on Monday, across the street from the Givati parking lot, the
tent outside Silwan’s Madaa community center and the Wadi Hilweh Information
Center were demolished along with a small stable because they were illegal
structures, residents said. Jawad Siyam, the director of the center, said
they did not receive any demolition notices before the demolition of the tent,
which resembled a Beduin tent with couches and meeting areas.
“It was a
place for children, so they can play and have a safe area,” Siyam said. “They
say children are throwing stones, but [by demolishing this tent] they are asking
them to go to the streets to throw stones.”
Siyam vowed to rebuild the
tent outside the center.