City of David
City of DavidIsrael News Photo: (file)

The United States-based Time Magazine complained this week that the archaeological activities of the City of David Foundation, also known as “Ir David” or “Elad,” are making life difficult for President Barack Obama.

Specifically, “on a political level,” wrote Time's Jerusalem bureau chief Tim McGirk, “it complicates efforts by the White House to enable both Palestinians and Israelis to share Jerusalem as their respective capitals, a key demand of the Palestinians.”

The article, which claimed “the willful jumbling of science and faith is threatening Jerusalem's precarious spiritual balance,” essentially accuses the City of David Foundation, which McGirk refers to as a “right-wing Jewish settler organization,” of hijacking Israel's political agenda. It also implies the organization is forcing Muslims to accept the Jewish truth of Biblical historical statements through archaeological discoveries.

But the claim doesn't stick. Those parts of Jerusalem that were restored to the city in the 1967 Six Day War, which took place more than 40 years ago, have long since been annexed. Their status, and that of the city itself, is not negotiable, according to Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Regev told Israel National News in an interview earlier this month that there was no intention to divide the capital, now or in the future. “The prime minster's position is clear and unchanged. Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel and will remain such in the future,” he said.

Time did note that the City of David Foundation has the support of the Israeli government at city and national levels as well as the backing of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), which monitors all archaeological activity.

However, it failed to point out that the City of David, whose populated area is known as Silwan in Arabic, has only been an Arab village since the 1930s. Some 60 percent of the land is Jewish-owned, including a number of acres purchased by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild in the early 20th century, prior to the appearance of the Arab villagers.

McGirk also omitted the fact that Jewish families lived in Shiloah (Silwan's Hebrew name) as early as 1882. The Jewish residents were literally driven from their homes by Arab attackers in the late 1920's.

During the city administrations of then-Mayors Teddy Kollek (1965-1993) and Ehud Olmert (1993-2003), some 88 illegal Arab structures were built in the area, which is zoned as a public “green area” marked for preservation and development of parks and tourism on the site believed to be where the royal gardens were in Biblical times. The illegal buildings have since been marked for demolition by the administration of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.