RAMALLAH, July 11 (JMCC) - An Israeli settler organization's control of a Jerusalem
-area state park is being challenged in Israel's courts.
The Israeli organization Ir Amim and several other academics and public figures filed a petition Sunday with Israel's high court objecting to the El-Ad organization's management of the City of David park. The state park lies just outside Jerusalem's old city walls in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan
Ir Amim is aware of the fact that in our time and age, the state cannot run all facilities, says the petitioners' lawyer, Neta Patrick. But there are certain ways to privatize services, for example by holding a tender, which in this case it did not do.
El-Ad was granted control of the park in 2005 by the Israel Parks Authority, through a process that the petitioners say was illegal and improper. Requests that the process be disclosed have been rebuffed by state authorities, says Ir Amim.
The settler organization, which states openly that its goals are to Judaize Jerusalem, now manages the site, running tours and collecting fees. Opponents believe the money collected goes to the coffers of the state, particularly as El-Ad is already well-funded. The group refuses to disclose its donors, however, which Patrick says means that we don't know who is running this organization.
The petitioners cite a 1992 report by the official Klogman committee which charges El-Ad with improperly obtaining Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem with the assistance of Israeli officials as further evidence against the settler group.
The state of Israel has privatized one of the most sensitive historic sites in the country - and transferred it to the hands of a private organization with a clear political agenda, says Yehudit Oppenheimer, director of Ir Amim.
The petition will be heard by the full panel of the high court, although an exact date has not been set for the hearing. Two weeks prior to the hearing, however, the state will submit a petition answering the charges of Ir Amim.
Conditions in Silwan have been particularly sensitive since the Jerusalem municipality approved plans to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in the neighborhood to make room for expanding the existing archeological park.