Ir Amim demands El-ad leave Silwan

Organization manages City of David national park.

The nonprofit organization Ir Amim and several intellectuals and activists petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday, demanding that the National Parks Authority annul an allegedly secret agreement allowing right-wing Jerusalem settlement movement El-ad to manage the City of David national park in the capital’s Silwan neighborhood.
According to the petition, filed by attorneys Michael Sfard and Neta Patrick, “there is no other example of a national park being run by a private nonprofit organization with a clear political orientation.
Thus, we will argue that no other instance of managing a national park in Israel raises a heavy suspicion of conflict of interests as does the management of the site which is the subject of this petition.”
The secret agreement between the National Parks Authority and El-ad was allegedly signed on March 7, 2005, after the government had agreed to annul earlier agreements granting the settlement organization authority over the archaeological sites in the park and the right to manage the entire area.
The petitioners charged that the National Parks Authority had repeatedly refused their requests to see a copy of the agreement.
To the best of their knowledge, wrote the petitioners, the agreement grants El-ad “the right to manage the site, to sell entrance tickets, to operate the visitors’ center, to prepare the information about the site with overall responsibility for the contents of the material, for training the guides, for managing the library and preparing the educational material, and for drafting the official guide program for visitors to the site.”
The petitioners charged that these rights gave El-ad power, among other things, to shape the opinions of Israeli schoolchildren and soldiers who were routinely brought to the site for educational tours.
This, the petitioners added, was coming from an organization whose primary purpose was to “Judaize” Silwan by actively involving itself in the “repatriation” of houses that may have belonged to Jews in the past and by purchasing homes belonging to local Arabs.
“The delegation of authority from the NPA to El-ad over this important historic and religious site has given the group a political advantage and allowed the politicization of the messages circulated in the park,” Ir Amim wrote in a press communiqué announcing the petition.
“Moreover, it has affected the lives of Palestinian residents of the area,” it added.
“We believe that the issue of making the story of east Jerusalem the story of the Jewish nation, and only the Jewish nation, will be shown in the material El-ad will present to visitors,” said Patrick.
Patrick added that if the state thought it best to privatize the City of David park, it was obliged to have acted according to the law.
“This includes holding a tender and having competition with other organizations,” she said. “Also, in this case, the private organization that was chosen is a very problematic one.”