Following the concealment of an illegal tunnel built by a Catholic Church on Mount Zion, the Regavim movement filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court on Monday, demanding that the city take responsibility for its negligence.
Regavim is dedicated to preserving Israel's national lands and resources. When it discovered the possible existence of this underground tunnel, the organization petitioned that the Jerusalem Municipality investigate it.
The tunnel, extending from the Abbey of the Dormition just outside of the Old City, threatens to impede on public grounds of the national park "around the walls of Jerusalem." There are many archaeological ruins buried beneath the area from the era of King David, the Hasmonean dynasty and the First Temple; a tunnel could potentially damage or destroy them.
Following two years of legal pressure, the city admitted to the presence of the tunnel and was forced to map out its path, extending into public lands and areas archaeological remains. The tunnel connects the abbey with another church, "The House of Joseph," and was found to measure around 150 meters.
Not only did this illegal tunnel infringe on the national park's public grounds, but it also barred the entrance to the public land with a private gate.
Despite its obvious illegal status, the city never released the map it drew up, nor did it take any measures to enforce the law. Regavim filed a petition on Monday that the church be charged property tax and fees for usage of the tunnel and that actions be taken to restore the area to its original state, either by sealing or destroying the illegal structure.
“When the details began to come into focus, we demanded over and over that the Jerusalem Municipality publicize the documentation of its findings, as required by the Freedom of Information Law. We further demanded that oversight, inspection and law enforcement procedures be taken immediately, to restore the site to its previous condition either by sealing off or demolishing the tunnel,” said attorneys Avi Segal and Yael Cinnamon of the Regavim Movement.“We filed this petition only when our repeated requests to the Jerusalem Municipality were not answered.”