A playground, community center and cafe built by Silwan residents were razed Monday morning to make way for a new visitors center at the City of David National Park, after construction of the center was approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee on Sunday.
The Elad organization, which operates the park in Jerusalem, promoted the plan for the center, which will enable visitors to view recently discovered archaeological findings.
Silwan residents and several left-wing organizations objected to the plan, charging that it bolsters the process of Judaization of the village and strengthens the right-wing Elad organization's hold on the site. On Monday, Israel Nature and Parks Authority representatives destroyed a complex that had been erected by village residents.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat voiced his support for construction of the center at the committee hearing, as did Israel Antiquities Authority's Jerusalem District director Dr. Yuval Baruch. "This is one of the most important projects in Jerusalem in recent generations," said Baruch. "There is an important link here between the Ophel Garden, the City of David and the Western Wall and the creation of a direct link between the sites."
The complex - to be called Mercaz Kedem (Kedem Center ) - is to be built on stilts, above the excavation site known as the Givati parking lot. Designed by architect Arieh Rahamimov, it will include a parking lot, exhibition space, classrooms, and an observation deck.
"The plan is an example of outstanding architecture that will contribute to the development of the national park and create public space that befits the location within the site and the city, as well as address the needs of the million and a half annual visitors to the national park," the Ministry of Interior's announcement stated.
"The public interest is to prevent massive construction opposite the walls of the Old City and certainly not to build on top of the major archaeological strata uncovered," countered archaeologist Yoni Mizrahi, who is active in the Emek Shaveh, an umbrella organization of left-wing archaeologists. "The archeology should be presented as part of Silwan where it was found, and not disconnected from it. The decision to erect a building in the Givati parking lot will fortify the Elad organization's Israeli settlement in Silwan and further exclude the Palestinian residents from their right to their village's past."
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