Two well-known Jewish investors are planning to build a hotel and luxury housing on one of the most important sites in Christianity — the Hill of Evil Counsel — and archaeologists warn the plan could endanger centuries of Jerusalem’s history.
American financier and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt and David Sofer, a London-based Israeli businessman, recently purchased a 110-year lease to the roughly one-hectare (2.5-acre) site from the Greek Orthodox Church. Initial drawings, presented to the Jerusalem planning authorities, provide for more than 10,000 square meters (108,000 square feet) of hotel, residential apartments and undefined “public buildings,” leaving little room for green space.
The hill, situated in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor just south of the Old City, is where Christians believe Jewish High Priest Caiaphas and his advisers decided to betray Jesus to the Romans.
Muslims associate the hilltop with Saladin’s general Abu Tor (Father of the Bull) who, according to legend, rode into battle against the Crusaders from the hill on the back of a white bull. He is believed to be buried in a shrine that still stands in the neighborhood. About a century ago, the Greek Orthodox Church cemented its claim to the hill by building a high wall that left the shrine just outside.
Archaeologist Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who is currently co-directing a dig on Mount Zion, thinks the landscape should be preserved.
“Around the Old City, you have various places connected with the Gospels, but they’ve all been built upon. There are very few sites like this that are open, available and from which you can get a broad view of the Old City of Jerusalem,” he said.
‘I think it’s important that one can look across and see Mount Zion, where the House of Caiaphas was situated, and the room where tradition says the Last Supper took place’
“Archaeologists will say ‘Here’s a site, we’ll excavate it, we’ll extract information, and then modern construction can take place.’ But in this case, it’s a different matter,” said Gibson. “I think it’s important that one can look across and see Mount Zion, where the House of Caiaphas was situated, and the room where tradition says the Last Supper took place, and then further to the left where Herod’s Palace was, with the praetorium, where the trial of Jesus took place…”
Archaeologist Gabriel Barkay, who heads the Temple Mount Sifting Project, said, “There is no doubt that there are ancient remains here. Some of them are known to us; most of them are as yet unknown.”
Monday, March 14, 2016
"Hill of Evil Counsel" slated for development
ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY: Luxury complex threatens ancient site on Jerusalem’s Hill of Evil Counsel Plan to build hotel, high-end apartments on one of last remaining unspoiled ridges surrounding Old City opposed by residents, archaeologists (Times of Israel).