Achievement for residents of Nabi Samuel: Tourism development plan is cancelled
The Civil Administration’s subcommittee for objections in the planning council for the West Bank has decided to reject the development plan for the Nabi Samuel antiquities site. The plan which was prepared by the Staff Officer for Parks and Nature Reserves in 2013, was followed by an objection submitted by the residents of Nabi Samuel/Samwil and the organizations Bimkom and Emek Shaveh. The rejection of the plan is an important achievement for the residents of the village, even if it is only temporary. The Civil Administration plans to submit a new development plan which would be more limited in its scope.
The village of Nabi Samwil/Samuel is located about one kilometer north of the Ramot neighborhood in Jerusalem and outside the municipal boundaries of the city, adjacent to the Nabi Samuel archaeological site located at the top of a hill. The site has a mosque, a tomb attributed to the Prophet Samuel, and ancient remains from various periods. To its northeast lies the Palestinian village of al-Jib, to the northwest are the settlements Givat Ze’ev and Giv’on, and to the west is the village of Beit Iksa (see attached map). The Oslo Accords put the village in Area C. Today it is home to about 200 residents.
In 1995, the site was declared a national park spanning an area of about 3,500 dunams which include the archaeological site, the residents’ homes, and agricultural lands that belong to them. Of the area declared as a national park, only 52 dunams constitute the actual archaeological site. Nabi Samuel is considered a holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Most of the visitors to the site are Jewish worshipers who visit the tomb they believe to be the Tomb of Samuel, situated within the mosque. Archaeological remains date from the Hellenistic period to the present day.
The village of Nabi Samwil has no approved master plan. The villagers urgently need a plan that will allow for basic infrastructure and the expansion of areas for residential homes and public buildings. Without a master plan, the future of the village is in question. In June 2013, the Civil Administration issued a new master plan for the site. The plan completely ignored the residents and their needs and focused only on the antiquities site. It proposed the construction of a tourism complex adjacent to the antiquities, which would include a restaurant, a visitors’ center, a souvenir shop, paths, a guard room, and more, over an area of 1,200 sqm. The tourism complex was set to incorporate the mosque, which is used by the residents to this day, as well as the Muslim cemetery and lands privately owned by the residents.
The decision to reject the plan is an important achievement for the residents, whose village has become a tourist center and a site of mass worship, while their own presence and needs have been grossly ignored. The Civil Administration intends to submit a new master plan, which, it claims, will be more modest. We hope that this plan will address the needs of the residents and not only prioritize tourist attractions and the needs of the Jewish worshipers who visit the site.