El’ad’s involvement in archaeological sites and projects in East Jerusalem, 2012
Over the past few years, the Israeli-Jewish campaign for control and sovereignty over Palestinian East Jerusalem has been closely tied with the development and operation of several archaeological sites in that area. The East Jerusalem site which is most strongly identified with the Israeli settler ideology is that of Ancient Jerusalem (the so-called “City of David”), located within the Palestinian village of Silwan, south-east of the Old City walls. For the past decade or so, this site has been operated by the right-wing NGO Elad, which is involved in Jewish settlement activities and the strengthening of the Jewish connection with East Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is well known for its abundance of archeological sites, and they play an important role in defining the character and landscape of the Old City. Many of the archeological sites are located within residential neighborhoods, sometimes even at a distance from the Old City. In this document we list the archeological sites that are operated by settler groups or by Israeli organizations clearly oriented towards strengthening Israeli control over East Jerusalem, and discuss significant developments at these sites in the past year.
Archaeology on a Slippery Slope: Elad’s Sifting Project in Emek Zurim National Park
The Temple Mount Sifting Project, sponsored by ELAD and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, is often portrayed in the media and in popular publications as a vital salvage operation of utmost scientific import. In recent years, an attempt has even been made to upgrade the initiative to a full-fledged scientific enterprise, with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) now outsourcing sifting for its digs—the ELAD-sponsored City of David excavations and others—to the project.
Emek Shaveh has produced a short film about the project which can be viewed on Youtube.
The truth of the matter is that the sifting project is political in conception and of questionable scientific import from the outset. Using it to sift soil deposits from systematic excavations certainly fails to meet scientific standards; this use increases the chances of the introduction of forgeries and diverts the emphasis of the excavation from the site as a whole to the individual find.
Cemeteries in the Historical Basin: An archaeological overview, including political and religious aspects
Graveyard Metropolis East of Jerusalem’s Old City
In the course of Jerusalem’s evolution, graves and cemeteries were erected just outside the city, on the slopes and foothills surrounding the city. The cemeteries add up to a broad continuum of burial sites from different periods that are associated with various religious backgrounds. Their location in East Jerusalem, flanking the Old City , as well as their religious import, have made them politically significant. The identifications attributed to the graves, the cultivation of their surroundings and the use they are put to affect the socio-political conflict in the area. The following is a review of the sites from east to west.
Hinnom Valley/ Wadi Rababa: A socio-political, archeological overview
Hinnom Valley/Wadi Rababa is a uniquely picturesque, archeologically-compelling area in the center of a political conflict. The landscape development, conservation work and improvement of public access to the antiquities are important and valuable. Along with the Israeli authorities’ development work, account should be taken of the socio-economic status and situation of area residents and of the political situation.
It appears that the landscape development and the investment in conservation is accompanied by political interests connected to the contest over sovereignty in East Jerusalem. Consequently, there is a danger that the focus on the antiquities will be seen as a threat to the residents and as an Israeli interest. It would therefore be best to display the valley’s multi-cultural heritage via graves testifying to various groups and peoples who lived in the city of Jerusalem, shaped it, and were buried here. The beliefs and traditions associated with the area make for a valley whose religious and cultural value cuts across national and religious sectors.
Mamilla Cemetery in West Jerusalem: A Heritage Site at the Crossroads of Politics and Real Estate
In the course of the 20th Century, the cemetery was damaged due to its location at the heart of West Jerusalem’s central business area. Businessmen’s drive to use the land for construction, as in the case of the Palace Hotel, along with the paving of roads and the construction of a school for the purposes of development, notably shrank the cemetery’s area. In the 1950’s, the Independence Park was built over cemetery land. The decision to build the Tolerance Museum at the site is the present and final stage of a consistent trend.
Policy makers and the Israeli public do not view the cemetery as a significant heritage site testifying to the city’s rich genealogy, but as vacant and prime real estate. A combination of political and economic interests, ignorance, and disregard for the local legacy have led to the approval of the construction of the Tolerance Museum. The cemetery offers the most substantial evidence of Muslim history in west Jerusalem; it appears that the desire to eradicate this history from the western part of the city was among considerations leading to the resolve to build here.
Where Are the Antiquities? National Parks between the Old City of Jerusalem and Area E1
The three national parks described in this report form a continuous uninhabited territory stretching from Jerusalem’s Old City walls to the area known as E1. Two of the parks have been declared national parks and one of them is in the process of being designated as one. The most important of these is the Jerusalem Walls National Park, which includes the Old City walls, the areas immediately outside the walls, and the City of David archeological site, spreading over 1,110 dunams (1.11 km2 or 274 acres). The Tzurim Valley (Emek Tzurim) National Park is nestled between the Old City, Mount Scopus, and the Palestinian village of A-Tur, covering 165 dunams. The third national park planned for Jerusalem, the Mount Scopus Slopes, will be located on the eastern slopes of Mount Scopus (just below the Hebrew University) between the Palestinian villages of ‘Issawiya and A-Tur, and is slated to cover 730 dunams. Contrary to popular belief, the Old City of Jerusalem is not a national park, though it is a World Heritage Site that contains antiquities of immense importance.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority are responsible for determining which archeological remains should be protected by the INPA, how they should be presented to the public, and what the size of the protected area should be. Although ostensibly of a purely professional nature, in reality their decisions are often guided by political considerations, with far-reaching implications.
The declaration of an area as a national park entails assuming responsibility for the administration of the area, a fact that often leads to a struggle over the rights to the land. This report examines the ways in which antiquities (real or imagined) are used by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority in order to assume responsibility for a given area, and thereby, de facto, to appropriate it.
From Territorial Contiguity to Historical Continuity – Asserting Israeli Control through National Parks in East Jerusalem – Update 2014
The Subcommittee for Objections of the District Planning and Building Committee approved the establishment of the “Mt. Scopus Slopes National Park” on the land of the villages of Issawiyya and A-Tur on November 15, 2013. This marked the conclusion of a two-year struggle waged by residents of the villages, human rights organizations, and political groups against the establishment of a national park in these areas. The process of establishing national parks in East Jerusalem began almost 40 years ago with the declaration of the Jerusalem Walls National Park (JWNP). As part of this park, which constitutes a green belt around the Old City, the Mt. Scopus Slopes National Park was the final stage in the seizure of areas around the Old City in the so-called ‘Historic BasinBasin’ of Jerusalem.
Today, the area covered by the Jerusalem’s national parks begins with the Abu Tor neighborhood in the southwest of the Historic Basin and ends with the aforementioned Mount Scopus Slopes National Park in the northeast. In the last few decades the Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have advanced the development, preservation and excavation of the antiquities located on park lands. Now that legal and planning rights on these lands have been secured, efforts to excavate and develop archeological sites will no doubt be accelerated. Tourism and archaeological activities will constitute a key means in the process of infusing historical-national content as deemed appropriate by the State of Israel. As such, the creation of territorial contiguity of these parks in East Jerusalem is compatible and in line with the ideology of historical continuity in terms of Jewish presence in these areas.
Creating territorial contiguity and historical continuity is an action with several benefits for the authorities: 1. A prominent Israeli presence; 2. Recognition of Israel’s historical right to these lands; 3. Limitation of Palestinian presence; 4. Archaeological excavation and preservation work that have marketing value. The Israeli public is attentive to new archaeological findings and arrives en masse to sites following media exposure.
The struggle for the national parks in East Jerusalem is political. For this reason, it can be assumed that the process of highlighting Jewish heritage in the ‘Green Belt’ will continue for the long term. As long as the State of Israel feels that it is struggling to confirm its sovereignty over ancient Jerusalem, the national parks will serve as a major factor. As a result, the Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority have much work ahead. The path to a political agreement in Jerusalem passes through the decisions and activities of these organs. In this sense, archaeological excavations and national parks have the same effect as a range of Israeli political activities conducted in East Jerusalem, and may even offer a broader effect – at least on the Israeli public.
Back to top