Yediot: NIS 9 million for settlement “tourism”, including 2 million for “City of David” in Silwan
The fact that these grants will fund highly politicized and inflammatory projects is best exemplified by the NIS 2 million slated for the “City of David” project in Silwan. This East Jerusalem settlement in the guise of an “archeological park” is at the cutting edge of efforts to insert Israelis in Palestinian communities around the Old City basin.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov [Israel Beiteinu] provides a policy-oriented explanation for the funding:
“The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for [the] ‘Every Jew’s Story’ [campaign] and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote. “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”
It would be a stretch, however, to think that he actually believes this claptrap. Misezhnikov is a politician using his position to dole out pork to allies.
Last week Haaretz reported on a new domestic campaign, which aims to re-brand the West Bank settlements as pastoral tourist attractions. The settlers running it appear to actually believe that they are exposing an obscured reality, restoring the objectively positive image stolen from them. Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Masika:
Settlement’s biggest enemy is ignorance. That’s the place where prejudice takes hold, fertile ground for hatred and blood libels against us. We can change this situation through these tours.
From a narrow Israeli perspective, maybe they’re right. Within our Orwellian public debate, it’s often hard discern which perception of reality is upside-down.
Yuval Karni, Yediot, September 20 2010 [page 6; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
While the Americans are struggling to arrange a continued construction freeze in the territories, there are those in Israel who are already preparing vigorously for the next stage. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov intends to transfer in the near future millions of shekels to settlements in Judea and Samaria for the purpose of developing tourist sites and attractions in the territories.
An internal Tourism Ministry document shows that in total, over NIS 9 million will be transferred to Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem. Minister Misezhnikov, who is strongly opposed to the freeze, wishes to let the local authorities develop the tourism branch within their boundaries.
Many areas in Judea and Samaria will enjoy the benefit of the large budgets that the ministry stands to transfer. The Samaria Regional Council will receive NIS 300,000 for tourism projects within its jurisdiction (signs in the Reihan forest, paving bicycle trails in the Shaked forest), the Binyamin Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 for putting up signs in tourist sites, the Southern Hebron Hills Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 to develop the Susya historical site, the share of the Karnei Shomron Regional Council will be NIS 100,000 for developing bicycle trails in Nahal Kaneh, and the Kiryat Arba Local Council will receive NIS 40,000 for planning tourism projects.
The big money will be given to the Etzion Bloc, the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem. The Tourism Ministry will transfer NIS 1.5 million for renovation and upgrading of the Herodion site within the boundaries of the Etzion Bloc Regional Council, about NIS 2 million to the Kasr al-Yahud baptism site in the Jordan Valley, and about NIS 5 million for developing projects in East Jerusalem: NIS 2 million for the City of David, NIS 1.5 million for Zedekiah’s Cave and NIS 1.5 million for tourism infrastructure in the Old City.
Tourism Minister Misezhnikov sent letters yesterday to mayors in Judea and Samaria and explained that he considered this a Jewish-Zionist necessity. “The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for ‘Every Jew’s Story’ and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote. “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”
In the letter, the tourism minister notes that upon the expiration of the security cabinet’s decision to suspend construction in Judea and Samaria, “I have decided to budget infrastructure, tourism and public projects throughout Judea and Samaria.” The minister also instructed the settler leaders to turn to Tourism Ministry Deputy Director General for Infrastructure and Investments Shai Weiner in order to receive a commitment for promoting projects in the territories.