Entrance to the City of David, 2007. (Photo: Keren Manor/ActiveStills
Last week the Jerusalem municipality voted almost unanimously to bankroll a settler-managed sound and light show in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The tourist site will be located in the City of David, a biblical theme park privately administered by the rightist Elad Association, also known as the Ir David Foundation. The theme park already offers an evening "sound and light show [that] is screened against the backdrop of the antiquities," as well as family-focused activities geared to visiting Jewish and Christian Zionists--3D movies, a Segway tour, "Jerusalem paintball," and a pine cone-decorating workshop.
The NIS 4 million ($1 million) project will be located in Jeremiah's cistern, the park's newly discovered ancient underground reservoir. Today, Haaretz's Nir Hasson reported on the decision to pump public funds into the project:
'The Elad Association is in charge of the entire area,' said Deputy Mayor Joseph ('Pepe' ) Alalo (Meretz ), the only council member who voted against the resolution, adding that the proposal was a 'trick' to benefit Elad, 'which is trying to take control of Silwan and destroy any possibility of coexistence' with the area's Palestinian inhabitants.
Since contracted by the government six years ago, the Elad Association built the biblical theme park by employing the Absentee Property Laws. The 1950 statute served as a clearinghouse to allow throwing Palestinians from their homes and replacing them with tourist attractions. But just weeks ago a wrench was thrown into the expropriation process when an Israeli court confirmed the settler group relied on false affidavits to carry out the evictions.
Under Israel's system, Palestinian properties in Silwan can legally be taken by the state, and then leased out to Elad, if the homeowners can be proven to have fled from Israel during the Six Days War. The court found the settler group bought fake statements from a Palestinian taxi driver who falsely claimed homeowners left the country in 1967. And although the court identified which families were evicted with erroneous affidavits, the Israeli judge that discovered the mistake has yet to reverse any of those eviction orders.
In total the Elad Association has Judaized 55% of Silwan through 30 home evictions and has moved over 300 settlers into the neighborhood, according to a video on Silwan by the Alternative Information Center (AIC). In addition to the biblical theme park, the settler group also constructed a Jewish-only housing corridor that connects the City of David to the Western Wall, or East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem.