Update – Kedem Center in Silwan and Davidson Center at the foot of the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa Compound
Important Israeli court and building committee decisions were recently delivered regarding efforts by right-wing organization Elad (An Israeli organization promoting Jewish settlement in Silwan that uses archaeology to strengthen Israeli presence in East Jerusalem) to take over sensitive locations in East Jerusalem: the planned “Kedem Center” in Silwan and the Davidson Center and archaeological park in the Old City. Both sites are strategically located around the Temple Mount/ Al-Aqsa.
Emek Shaveh’s new publication details how Elad is widening its hold on areas near the Temple Mount—by physically connecting the Davidson Center to an archaeological site in Silwan, where it plans to build an ideological tourism center named the Kedem Center. There is currently an underground passageway linking the two sites. If Elad succeeds in constructing the enormous tourism complex and manage the existing Davidson Center, it will be a crucial step in achieving the organization’s objectives—supported by the Israeli government—to strengthen Israel’s hold on the Temple Mount and in the historic basin in East Jerusalem.
Kedem Center (no. 2 in the map)
As Elad’s flagship project, the Kedem Center was slated to become Jerusalem’s largest tourism center, marketing the organization’s religious-nationalist ideology to hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. It was also planned as the starting point for most of the subterranean and above-ground passageways in the historic basin. The original plan included a museum named the “Shrine of the Bible” and a stop for the cable car plan that would carry visitors from West Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives.
In June 2015, the appeals committee of the National Council for Planning and Building decided to reduce the size of the Kedem Center from 16,000 square meters. Due to political pressure by Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked in the last two weeks, the Council decided to hold a re-hearing. It is expected in the coming weeks. This government’s political pressure on the project is unprecedented, testimony to the political nature of this issue.
Emek Shaveh will participate in the discussion, and will argue again that the plan for the tourism complex should be cancelled. We believe that the struggle will be even more difficult than before—there is no doubt that political considerations are at work to bring about the current government’s desired decisions.
Davidson Center (no. 6 in the map)
The Davidson Center is the largest archaeological park in the Old City. It is located below the southwest corner of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, adjacent to the Western Wall. This strategic location is important to Elad, which sees Davidson as a way to link the Old City to the village of Silwan, via the planned Kedem Center. Following the District Court’s approval to let Elad manage the Center, the Israeli government appealed the decision with the Israeli High Court. The legal battle between the State and Elad is not to be taken for granted, since the pro-Elad decision was taken by former Housing Minister Uri Ariel.
Given Elad’s track record for long-term struggles, we do not expect the organization to easily give up its goals to take over the area, even if the High Court will rule against it this time around. Elad is already managing an underground passageway that connects the site to the location of the future Kedem Center in Silwan. Emek Shaveh has petitioned the High Court (On April 12, 2015), asking that the State take over the management of the tunnel.
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