The Jerusalem Municipality has issued “gardening orders” for 27 plots of land in the occupied eastern part of the city’s Palestinian quarters of Silwan and Abu Tor totaling approximately 60 dunams (just under 15 acres). The municipality can legally issue temporary orders to appropriate unutilized private land for public purposes, for example to build parking lots or develop public parks.
However, a has been noted by the NGO Emek Shaveh, “The order includes a clause saying that ‘the owners will be permitted to reclaim their plots once they receive construction permits,’ when in fact it is known that the landowners can not possibly receive construction permits because their land is situated within a national park which, according to law, precludes construction. In this sense, the taking of the land is tantamount to confiscation since the landowners will never be allowed to build on it in any case.”
The order stipulated that the works undertaken would create “geotechnical strips and landscape development, clear walking paths and create sitting areas.” In other words, instead of responding to the needs of the local residents, the municipality is intending to use the area to expand tourism and fortify Israel’s occupation over the Palestinian neighborhoods.
The gardening order is the latest in a series of development activities in the Silwan area and will no doubt complement the settler Elad Foundation’s initiatives in the valley and efforts to link it with tourism ventures in the City of David (Wadi Hilweh).
The Elad Foundation is currently working on several projects within the area covered by the gardening order including the café it is constructing in Abu Tor, the cable car planned to link West Jerusalem to the Kedem Center, and the archaeological excavations, which the Elad Foundation has been funding in recent years adjacent to the Catholic cemetery.