"Enchanted Jerusalem" tour sparks anger in Silwan
08 June 2012
4 million Israeli shekels (around £670,000) has been given to the right-wing settler organisation the City of David Foundation (ELAD) to pay for a ‘sound and light show’ in their controversial visitors centre in Silwan, East Jerusalem. The money, which comes from the Jerusalem district council and Israeli Tourist Ministry, will be used to improve the “Enchanted Jerusalem” tour and attract tourists to the area.
The grant has been greeted with anger by residents. Local residents are outraged that public spaces have been taken over for tourist purposes and now require a security check and an entry fee, effectively barring Palestinians from entry. The size of the grant, made to one of the richest organisations in Israel, to fund it’s operations in a district where child poverty rates stand at 75% for Palestinian children has also caused anger. The only children’s playground in Silwan was demolished earlier this year by the Jerusalem municipality. Many Silwan residents live in imminent fear of losing their land, and at least 29 family homes have demolition orders on them.
The City of David foundation runs a tourist centre and several archaeological digs on annexed Palestinian land in Silwan, just outside the Old City walls. The foundation, which is one of the largest and richest settlement organisations, has attracted strong criticism in recent months after the Jerusalem District Court ruled that it had relied on false affidavits to carry out evictions and gain control of Palestinian land in Silwan.
The landmark court decision saved at least one family in Silwan, the Ruweidi family, from losing their home. The City of David foundation has made extensive use of the thin legal veil of the Absentee Property law to take over Palestinian homes in Silwan in order to build a tourist site. It is not known how many other families have lost land in Silwan based on false documents.