Update: The State Attorney requests permission to petition the High Court of Justice against letting the Elad Foundation take over the management of the ‘Davidson Center’
In October, the Jerusalem District Court approved an agreement to transfer the management of the Davidson Center Archaeological Park to the Elad Foundation. The State’s decision to appeal to the High Court is a step in the right direction in efforts to safeguard the heritage of Jerusalem and maintain the status quo in the area around the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa compound. In addition, the state has requested to refrain from transferring the management of the site to Elad until a decision has been reached on the appeal.
If the management of the Davidson Center ends up in the hands of the Elad Foundation, it would mean that settlers with a right wing agenda would be given control over a large antiquities site located in the most sensitive place in the region, adjacent to and at the foot of the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa compound.
The Strategic importance of the Davidson Center in the political struggle over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa compound (see pictures below)
“The Davidson Center” is an archaeological park situated alongside the southern wall and part of the western wall of the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa compound (see number 6 in map II attached, along the western side it continues the Western Wall). Remains from some of the most important periods in the history of Jerusalem were discovered in this area, dating from the 7th century BCE through to the late Islamic periods.
The Elad Foundation has already admitted that the Davidson Center holds great strategic value. Giving the Elad Foundation the right to manage the Davidson Center, would allow it to strengthen the connection (physical and in the public perception) between Silwan and the Western Wall and the Old City, through public tours linking the ‘City of David’ in Silwan with the Western Wall plaza and the Davidson compound through a series of underground tunnels (some of which exist and others which may be excavated in the future). Assuming that the foundation will operate in the Davidson Center in the same manner as it does in the ‘city of David’, it is predicted that it will invest millions in archaeological excavations and the development of a tourism site that will reflect a nationalist and religious Jewish agenda. Construction atop of antiquities and the predicted use of the archaeology at the site as political tool to emphasize messages which the Elad Foundation wishes to promote could increase tensions with the Islamic Waqf and between Jews and Arabs in the most sensitive place in the region.
Background for on the struggle over management of the Davidson Center:
At the beginning of 2014 a contract was signed between the Elad Foundation and the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter which stipulated that management of the Davidson Center will be transferred to the Elad Foundation. In March 2014, Emek Shaveh asked the Attorney General to prevent the implementation of this agreement. In April 2014, the State Attorney appealed to the court against the agreement between the Elad Foundation and the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter and won in the Jerusalem Magistrate Court. But following an appeal by the Elad Foundation to the district court, Elad’s position was upheld allowing it to take over management of the park. In April 2015, Emek Shaveh petitioned the High Court asking that the State take over the management of a tunnel linking The Givati Parking Lot in Silwan with the Davidson Center. We are still waiting for the State’s response. In the meantime the State has promised that it will not sign a contract giving the Elad Foundation rights to manage the tunnel.
The current state of affairs
With the State’s request to suspend the transfer of the management of the Davidson Center until the court makes its decision on the appeal, and the State’s promise to Emek Shaveh that no contract will be signed with Elad over the management of the tunnel between Silwan and the Davidson Center until the Supreme Court makes its decision on this issue, Elad’s activities in the Davidson Center are currently frozen. The struggle over the management of this site is far from being over, and we hope that the High Court’s decision will put an end to attempts by a private foundation to take over a site so religiously and politically sensitive.
Taken in the context of the rising violence in recent months and the debate over whether or not there has been a change in the status quo at the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa compound, the struggle over the Davidson Center should not be perceived as an isolated event. In our opinion, transferring management of the site to the Elad Foundation would have significant implications for the struggle over the Old City, the village of Silwan and for the balance between religious and political forces in the city.
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