NGO petitions High Court to prevent closure of area in Silwan

Contested enclave in excavation site was formerly open to public.

A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Emek Shaveh, a consortium of archeologists representing residents of Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, petitioned the High Court on Wednesday to prevent the closure of “Area G” of the City of David archeological site, located south of the Old City.
Emek Shaveh said the petition was filed against the Nature and Parks Authority, which it accuses of colluding the Ir David Foundation (Elad) to close off public and archeological areas previously open to all residents and visitors of Silwan. Elad operates the City of David National Park, adjacent to Area G.
“The closing of Area G, which has been open to the public since the British Mandate in the 1920s, began two months ago with construction of fences and gates around the area, making it possible to lock it,” the petition states. “The NPA’s [the Nature and Parks Authority’s] closure of a public space – located near a residential area – for the benefit of the national park, typifies its actions in Silwan for two decades now.”
In June, the National Planning and Building Committee approved the foundation’s Kedem Center, an archeological facility planned to sit atop the Silwan Givati parking lot excavation site.
The petition cites archeo logical precedents in the capital that resulted in closures of once-public sites.
“In the mid-1990s, the village spring Ein Umm Al-Daraj/ Hagihon was closed for archeological excavations and has not been accessible to residents ever since,” the petition states. “In 2005, the NPA closed Birket al-Hamra/ Pool of Siloam at the southern end of the village, next to the Al-Bustan neighborhood, and since then an entrance fee has been required.
“It is the Nature and Parks Authority’s duty to care for the antiquities and historical sites for the benefit of all citizens, and not turn national parks into a tool for land appropriation and dispossession of residents,” the petition continues. “We hope that the High Court will stop the process of taking over Area G, and require the NPA and Elad to report their development plans and how they accommodate the needs of the village.”
Wednesday’s filing follows a separate petition submitted by Emek Shaveh to the court earlier this year about the tunnel connecting the Givati parking lot excavations and the Davidson Center in the Old City.
“In both cases we witnessed an attempt to expand control by the NPA and Elad of public and other areas that are not their responsibility,” said Emek Shaveh spokesman and archeologist Yonathan Mizrachi.
Elad has repeatedly successfully defended the legality of its excavation efforts in Silwan.