Government to infuse NIS 16 m. into east Jerusalem’s City of David park

National park in primarily Arab neighborhood of Silwan is owned by right-wing Jewish group aiming to strengthen Jewish ties to J'lem.

City of David 521 (photo credit: Courtesy City of David)
City of David 521
(photo credit: Courtesy City of David)
The Tourism Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office, in coordination with the Jerusalem Municipality, will infuse approximately NIS 16 million into the development of a national park owned by a right-wing group in the primarily Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
The City of David National Park is privately owned by the Ir David Foundation, an association that aims to strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and renew the Jewish community in the City of David.
All construction and development within the park will be overseen by the Nature and Parks Authority and the Antiquities Authority.
According to the ministry, roughly half of the park’s funding will come from the Prime Minister’s Office, with an additional NIS 5 million from the ministry itself.
The municipality will add an additional NIS 1.4 million, with the remaining funds being donated privately.
“The City of David is one of Jerusalem’s most popular sites, as well as one the most important in the world,” the municipality said in a statement released Sunday. “The Tourism Ministry decided to convert some of the funds allocated to it by the municipality for the project, which had been earmarked for building more walkways at the site.”
Meretz city councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, cited two concerns over the announcement.
“The problem with this project is not investing in a park like this in a historical place like this,” said Margolit by phone Sunday. “The problem is that the right-wing is systematically taking ownership of this historical place and turning it into a settlement.”
Margolit continued, “This is a problematic process that can also be seen in other places, such as the Western Wall, where the Orthodox have increasingly taken ownership from the secular. The same process is happening in the City of David with Palestinian rights.”
Margolit cautioned that such a move could create an “explosive” situation.
“[The government] must be very, very careful because this is also a Palestinian village and we must be sensitive, because a situation like this one can become very explosive,” he said.
While the municipality commended the government’s decision to develop the park, it was equally quick to note that no new budget increases – beyond the amounts approved in previous years – were allocated by the city’s finance committee.
In a statement, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor and financial committee chairman David Hadari lauded the announcement.
“There will be no compromises concerning Jerusalem. We must continue to build and develop all parts of Jerusalem,” he said.
The City of David Visitor’s Center is ranked among the top five tourist attractions in Israel, having grown from 25,000 visitors in 2001 to 350,000 visitors in 2008.
An additional NIS 150,000 will be allocated by the government to construct a mikve, or ritual bath, in the Jewish neighborhood of Nof Tzion, located in the Arab quarter Jebl Mukaber.