Court: Paving, upgrades near City of David must stop

High Court of Justice rules that infrastructure upgrades in east Jerusalem neighborhood must be halted.

311_Silwan (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
Upgrades to the infrastructure and public spaces in the Ir David/Wadi Hilweh section of the Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem must be halted for six months while the city reexamines whether the structures were built illegally, the High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday.
The municipality, along with the Transportation Ministry and the Local Planning and Building Committee, has been upgrading the infrastructure around the City of David Archeological Park, which is run by the Ir David Foundation, a group that “aims to strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and renew the Jewish community in the City of David.” Work on sewage, water, and drainage pipes in the area will continue.
For three years, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has waged a legal battle to halt the infrastructure upgrades around the park. Though basic services such as sewage pipes, sidewalks, paved roads and water pipes are severely lacking in east Jerusalem, residents of Silwan say the upgrades are primarily for the benefit of the City of David site. They also claim the Ir David Foundation has been using the excuse of infrastructure upgrades to tunnel underneath their homes and use the resulting archeological finds to force them out of their homes.
“We welcome the decision of the High Court, and remind the authorities that they have an obligation to end the failure and neglect of planning in neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, and must continue planning in the area by providing a real answer to the problems of local residents before the interests of tourism,” ACRI lawyer Nasrin Alian said. ACRI worked with the Bimkom: Planning for Human Rights organization to bring the petition.
“The Ir David Foundation regrets that the petitioners were successful in preventing the residents from receiving benches, trash facilities, ornamental trees and lampposts that they are entitled to just like any other residents of the city,” Ir David Foundation spokesman Udi Ragones said.
The justices rejected the municipality’s position that because the area is included within the City of David (Jerusalem Walls) National Park, it can make significant planning changes without going through the approval process typically required of all construction and infrastructure upgrades.
The court asked that the city and planning experts review the plan and decide whether or not to remove the work that has already been performed and compensate property owners for any damage done.