Press Release – The High Court ordered the State to ensure public spaces for Silwan’s residents
The High Court judges ruled Monday (November 20, 2017) that the Israel National Parks Authority (INPA) and the Elad Foundation cannot close public spaces without proposing an alternative for Silwan’s residents. The appeal, submitted through Attorney Itai Mack on behalf of Emek Shaveh and the residents of Silwan, objects to the closure of the archaeological areas E and G, which were once freely accessible public spaces and are now part of the “City of David” site.
Emek Shaveh and the residents of Silwan submitted a petition to the High Court in 2015 through Attorney Itai Mack, demanding to prevent the closure of the archaeological areas E (No. 6 and 7 on the map) and G (No. 3 on the map). Closing these areas means that only visitors to the tourist site will be allowed entry, and during its limited reception hours. The residents of the village will be denied entry after 5pm, weekends and holidays. Areas E and G constitute the largest open public space in Silwan and in the “City of David”. The petition was submitted against the Israel National Parks Authority (INPA), which, together with the Elad foundation, is in a gradual process of closing areas that were once open to the residents of Silwan and to the wider public.
In the last hearing, the High Court ruled that the attorney general would provide a position on the appropriateness of the closure, after the police and the Israel Antiquities Authority had submitted their positions. In today’s hearing, based on the position that was submitted, the judges ruled that if the respondents (INPA and Elad) wish to restrict entry into the areas under discussion, they are obliged to find open public spaces for the good of the residents, which will be accessible every day of the year and every hour of the day. That is, closing these spaces will require preparing alternative public spaces for the village residents.
In our view, the court has made an important decision, directing the settlers and the state to stop taking over public spaces in the name of archaeology or tourism, without offering an alternative for the residents of East Jerusalem. In addition, the judges stated that the INPA must proactively develop parks for the residents of Silwan. This will be a refreshing change since, until now, the INPA has been actively destroying the public parks which the residents established.
The State must propose alternatives to the areas they closed within 60 days. We assume that it will be very difficult for the authorities to find spaces equivalent in size to those that were closed for the villagers of Silwan to use.
It is important to remember that since 1995, dozens of dunams of public spaces have been closed in Silwan: the Givati Parking Lot (No. 1 on the map), the Shiloah Pool (No. 9), Hagihon Spring/Ein Umm al-Daraj (No. 5) and more. We hope that the High Court’s precedential decision will prevent the closure of addition spaces in the future and protect the basic rights of the residents of Silwan.