Press Release: Political Pressure led to reconsideration of the Kedem Compound – this time under more favorable conditions to the settlers
On Tuesday, March 22, the National Planning and Building Committee will hold a re-hearing on the ‘Kedem Center,’ to be built near the Old City walls at the entrance to the village of Silwan. The re-hearing comes out of political pressure by the Justice Minister and other officials claiming the project’s national significance. In our understanding the complex, planned as a mall-sized visitor center, will not only damage antiquities and the historical character of Jerusalem, but is a major factor in Elad’s political struggle to strengthen Israel’s hold over the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem.
In May 2015 the Appeals Committee of the National Planning and Building Committee determined to significantly reduce the area of the Kedem Center and to remove elements such as the “Active Archeology” floor as well as commercial and tourism areas.
In January 2016 in an unusual step, the Director of the Ministry of Justice appeared at the Committee’s discussion and attacked the decision to reduce the construction and pressed for a rehearing. The Committee members got the message: their professional decisions are inconsistent with Justice Minister Shaked’s political interests, and they voted for a rehearing.
The hearing was set for Tuesday, March 22. In addition, it was decided that the forum will decide on the content of the plenary of the National Planning and Building Committee. This forum consists of thirty representatives of government agencies and local authorities. We believe that this vehicle was chosen to ensure that the program will move forward to the satisfaction of the political leadership and that professionally-based objections will be reduced. Additionally it was decided that the hearing will be shortened. While the last discussion of the plan lasted two days, this time it will be not more than a few hours (at best). Emek Shaveh, along with other objectors, will present arguments against the establishment of the Kedem Center, but the concern is that political pressure will influence the debate and future decisions.
‘Kedem Center’ is slated to take up 16,000 square meters over seven floors and reach almost to the height of the walls of the Old City. The complex is intended to be built atop an archaeological excavations area known as the Givati parking lot. Elad foundation and the Israeli government plan to set up the ‘Shrine of the Bible’ in the complex–a government center whose aim is to bring biblical stories to the public. The original decision for the Shrine of the Bible proposed it be built in West Jerusalem, no in territory under political dispute.
The Kedem Center plays a central role in the struggle over the identity of the village of Silwan and of the area around the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif. The plan to build the cable car between West Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, including a stop at the Kedem Center, aims to bring many tourists there. But there are already many tourism centers in the area – the Jewish Quarter, the ‘City of David’ archaeological park, and the Davidson archaeological garden. The main reason why authorities are behind establishing another large center is political. Assuming Elad continues to promote the same message as at the ‘City of David,’ it’s easy to guess that the story that will be told at the Kedem Center and the Museum of the Bible, will feature the Jewish story as it is told by the settlers; not the one that emerges from the diverse archeology in the area.
The political pressure by the current government on professionals is unprecedented! And the planning and building committees are the places where citizens and representatives of the public can express opposition to the government and private construction. Overriding the powers of professional experts in such a course way because of political interests, affects all of us, in the short term and long term.
To watch a video explaining the significance of the Kedem Center from a villager’s perspective click here.
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