To Lonely Planet: Include Arab history on City of David

Ir David Foundation calls protest by Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement PR move on par with boycotting universities.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
May 1, 2011 23:53
3 minute read.
To Lonely Planet: Include Arab history on City of David

roman mansion city of david 248.88. (photo credit: Courtesy/Antiquities Authority )

 
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An activist organization in Jerusalem is appealing to the Lonely Planet guide series to include more information about the Arab history of the City of David site, following the busy Pessah season at the popular tourist attraction.

Members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement protested by handing out flyers outside the City of David during the holiday. More than 8,000 tourists and Israelis visited the site during the four intermediate days of the holiday.

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Lonely Planet dedicates three full pages to the City of David site in the 2010 version of its Israel & Palestinian Territories guidebook, but does not include any information about the Arab neighborhood of Silwan or the Ir David Foundation (Elad), which runs the City of David. Lonely Planet recommends the site, which hosts approximately 450,000 visitors per year, as one of the top “must-see” sites for a two-day stay in the capital.

“We want them to illustrate in the guide that this is a political disagreement, and that it belongs to a political org with extremist agenda,” said Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement activist Avner Inbar. “The situation is that Elad has done a good job blurring the political situation, and most people that see it just don’t know what is going on.”

Lonely Planet sent a noncommittal reply to a query from some of the activists last week. “The authors in conjunction with the commissioning editor of the next Israel & Palestinian Territories guidebook will independently review our information on the City of David when researching the guide, and your comments have been passed onto them for their consideration,” wrote Raphael Richards, a member of the feedback team for Lonely Planet.

“[We] strive to put forward an impartial and balanced view of local issues of interest to travelers, which will give them a greater understanding of the country they travel in,” the email stated.

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During Pessah, Solidarity Activists sat outside the entrance to the City of David with blindfolds covering their eyes, in an attempt to remind visitors of the “reality” of life in Silwan, which surrounds the archeological park.

“It’s important that a guy who comes and gives his money knows where his money is going to,” said Inbar.

The Solidarity Movement wants as a “bare minimum” for Lonely Planet to include information about the Arab neighborhood Silwan and the effect that the archeological park has had on residents. Inbar added that they had chosen Lonely Planet because it is the most well known guidebook, but would consider appealing to others in the future.

“The archeological excavations on the City of David hill during the past 150 years have found artifacts that have amazed the whole world, and that is why many international guidebooks have chosen it as one of the leading tourist sites in Israel,” Elad spokesman Udi Ragones said.

He accused the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement of a “PR move” with the Lonely Planet campaign. “[They] are joining radical left-wing groups that are trying to ban artists, academics, products, and now national heritage sites in Israel,” he said.

The My Israel organization mounted a counter-campaign and encouraged its members to send the Lonely Planet feedback team letters of support for the City of David entry in the guidebook.

In July 2010, the Ir Amim nonprofit organization and other activists petitioned the High Court of Justice to annul the agreement between the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation that transferred the management of the City of David site from the authority to the private organization. “There is no other example of a national park being run by a private nonprofit organization with a clear political orientation,” the petition read.

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