Activists claim park is attempt to stop expansion of Isawiyah and A-Tur villages, authority says park needed to protect archeological sites; four Israelis, one Palestinian arrested trying to stop bulldozers.
By Nir Hasson

Bulldozers constructing the Mount Scopus National Park near Jerusalem destroyed on Monday what looked like hewn caves of possible archaeological value.

No archeologist from the Antiquities Authority was present to supervise the work, though regulation stipulates that work of this nature is to be supervised.

The Nature and Parks Authority says the work was intended to turn the area into a national park, partly in order to protect archaeological remains found in the area.

On the other hand, the Palestinians claim the park is being dedicated in collaboration with the Jerusalem Municipality, in order to hem in the Palestinian villages Isawiyah and A-Tur, containing any future development, as the park will include land belonging to them.

Four Israeli left-wing activists and one Palestinian were detained on Monday trying to stop the bulldozers building the national park.

The activist movement Solidarity, which filmed the destruction of the caves by the bulldozers, said that “ever since extremist settlers took over, the Nature and Parks Authority has sacrificed the values of nature and history in the service of extremist nationalist ideology. This is another example of the way in which right-wing lobbyists are taking over.”

Two months ago, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee approved the park, to be located on a slope of Mount Scopus. The plan was the subject of objections, which are due to be heard by the committee in two weeks.

The approval has been slammed by left-wing organizations and local people, who say the park’s true purpose is to prevent the villages from developing further. They say the area does not include archaeological or natural phenomena that would justify the creation of a national park.

The Nature and Parks Authority responded to the criticism with a response that the caves had no archaeological importance and were in fact modern.

“Who gave them the authority to make that decision,” Yoni Mizrahi, an archaeologist the left-wing organization Emek Shave. “They should of let the Antiquities Authority make that decision.”

The Nature and Parks Authority issued a statement: “The works are municipal enforcements, approved by the police, to stop illegal waste disposal in the area. The approval of the park is going through normal procedures. The area has been earmarked for preservation for years now.”

A statement issued by the city of Jerusalem read: “The specific area in which the work was done had no archaeological findings. The cave is made of concrete and is considered modern. Where archaeological finds are located proper supervision by the Antiquities Authority is present at all works.”