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Occupation magazine - Jerusalem
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Appeal to UNESCO: Your intervention is needed in the plan to build a tourist compound next to the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem
The Emek Shaveh organization and the residents of the village of Silwan call on UNESCO to issue a professional opinion regarding the Elad Organization’s plan to build “Kedem Center,” slated for construction next to the wall of the old city of Jerusalem, above the archeological remains there. This tourism compound, at the Givati Parking Lot, constitutes a significant change to the city’s character and preservation. In our opinion, the declaration of the Old City of Jerusalem as an endangered world heritage site requires UNESCO’s involvement in the matter of the planned construction.
In February of 2012, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved construction of a tourist compound five stories high, and covering an area of 9000 square meters. The building is to be built outside of the walls of the Old City, at a distance of about 20 meters from the wall. The construction will take place in an area of archeological excavations known as the “Givati Parking Lot.” The project was initiated by the Elad Association and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Emek Shaveh calls on UNESCO (the letters are attached in a separate cover), to intervene in the proposed program and to issue an independent and professional opinion on the effects of the planned structure on the Old City of Jerusalem. UNESCO’s recognition of the walls of Jerusalem as a World Heritage Site in 1981 and the recognition of the Old City as an Endangered World Heritage Site designate UNESCO as the responsible body for the protection of Jerusalem’s heritage.
We are making this appeal to UNESCO because the Israeli bodies charged with the protection of ancient sites, such as the Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority, are supporting the plan. The chair of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee for Israel is the plan’s architect, and thus we cannot appeal to him to render an independent opinion.
The one-sided steps, like excavations and removal of archaeological layers or construction on top of antiquities and their consequent concealing, shape the heritage of Jerusalem according to the vision of one side only, without consulting and considering all the inhabitants of the region. The planned tourist centre at the `Givati parking lot` could substantially change the way the heritage of Jerusalem is seen and preserved. In the current political situation and because of the significance of Jerusalem as a world heritage site, a number of steps are essential in order to safeguard the sites in Jerusalem.
1. We are calling on UNESCO to examine the planned project at the `Givati parking lot` and to formulate a clear position with regard to the project`s impact on the heritage of Jerusalem.
2. Since the Jerusalem District Planning Committee has already approved the construction plan, it`s necessary to act immediately and before the construction works will start at the site. We are calling for an independent team on behalf of UNESCO which would present its clear position regarding the construction plan to the Israeli government.
3. The unique position of Jerusalem necessitates a permanent and independent representation of UNESCO in Jerusalem which would act to safeguard the heritage of Jerusalem as a whole and moderate the one-sided activities carried out today.
4. The archeological excavations play an important part in shaping the character and cityscape of Jerusalem and therefore it`s necessary that archeology will be appropriately represented at the UNESCO`s representative office in the region, like architecture is.
For additional information:
* “Emek Shaveh” is a non-profit association of archaeologists, and human rights activists working to change the role of archaeology in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. www.alt-arch.org
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