The Jerusalem Municipality closed the Mosque in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan today. No, it is not because of political reasons; it is because of a serious concerned to the public’s safety. There was a dangerous collapse at an archeological site underneath the building, and the Municipality wanted to make sure that nobody would get hurt. The works surrounding the collapse might take a few days before the mosque and the kindergarten (in it) will be reopened.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority has been conducting large scale excavations in Silwan, and has opened tunnels underneath the houses and the roads of Silwan. Hundreds of visitors walk through those tunnels every day to see the archeological site of the City of David, while above their heads thousands of Palestinians live their day to day lives.
It is not the first time that there has been a collapse in Silwan, at the Antiquities Authority’s excavations. On March 2010, at the same tunnel, another collapse occurred and the “Dangerous Buildings Department” of the Jerusalem Municipality opened an investigation. Around May 2009 there was also a collapse at a plaza near a school in Silwan under which there was an intensive excavation. The Municipality, again, opened an investigation. Also earlier in 2009 the stairs leading up the hill in Silwan collapsed, after a new excavation started under it.
The Jerusalem Municipality always acts after a collapse occurs. When we inquired whether the excavations had a construction permit, the Municipality explained that archeological excavations does not require any such permit. The meaning is that there is no inspection by the Municipality over the works that are done underneath the homes of hundreds of residents in Silwan. The Antiquities Authority, together with Elad Association (which is funding and initiating most of the excavations in Silwan) and the National Parks Authority are the ones in charge of the diggings.
Luckily today nobody was harmed at the City of David site. When I arrived, I saw a group of children and adults at the entrance to the compound. Usually, the route of their tour would go through the tunnel. Had they passed there few minutes before, at the moment of the collapse – there might have been a disaster. Had the collapse led to the collapse of the kindergarten in the Mosque on top of the tunnel, there might also have been a tragedy. In this, perhaps there is equality.