During the government meeting held in the Western Wall Tunnel to commemorate Jerusalem Day, the government approved the third phase of the “Shalem” program for the exposure of ancient Jerusalem, with a budget of 41 million shekels for two years. Whilst the decision stated that the budget is intended for the Israel Antiquities Authority, all the projects funded by the budget are connected to initiatives of the Elad settler organization in East Jerusalem.
The government’s decision approves the transfer of 41 million shekels to the Antiquities Authority for the purpose of ongoing research, exposure, development, and accessibility of ancient Jerusalem sites. The budget is divided over two years, with 27.5 million shekels allocated for 2023 and 13.5 million shekels for 2024.
When examining the work plans of this decision, it is evident that almost all the initiatives are under the responsibility of the Elad settler organization, in the Silwan neighborhood and the Ben Hinnom Valley.
For example, the “Second Temple Way” excavation project includes excavations of tunnels in the Silwan neighborhood, excavation of the Siloam Pool, development of the Ben Hinnom Valley, and other initiatives that are all within the scope of responsibility of Elad or connected to the initiatives promoted by this settler organization.
Additionally, part of the budget is allocated to increasing the number of visitors to “Ancient Jerusalem.”. However, the term “Ancient Jerusalem” is another name for the City of David site, operated by Elad. Accordingly, this implies that many more students and soldiers will visit educational programs at Elad’s sites.
Another portion of the budget is designated for the development of educational programs and training under the responsibility of the Israel Antiquities Authority. However, the educational programs themselves will be focused within Elad’s sites. This means that the creation of programs by the Israel Antiquities Authority, and possibly in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, will provide educational-academic endorsement for the content delivered at Elad’s sites, even though these programs often tend to emphasize and focus solely on Jewish history while neglecting the historical and cultural aspects of other peoples and faiths. (for further information on Elad’s tourism sites, read here).
Background on the “Shalem” Program:
The “Shalem” program was announced by the Netanyahu government during the cabinet meeting held in honor of Jerusalem Day in 2017. Its goal is to expose, research, and develop the sites of ancient Jerusalem. Since the program’s inception, tens of millions of shekels have been allocated for the development and excavation of the Old City Basin.
Peace Now: “Like in every year, the Israeli government celebrates Jerusalem Day by transferring funds to settlers in East Jerusalem. The cabinet meeting in the Western Wall tunnels is a direct continuation of the hate march we witnessed last week on Jerusalem Day. Both of these actions are intended to increase hostility, tension, and hatred between Israelis and Palestinians in the city, rather than finding a peaceful solution between the peoples.”