Awarding the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement to David Be’eri, director of the Elad settler group, which operates the City of David archaeological site and forwards private settlement in East Jerusalem, is a grave affront to anyone who values an equitable and peaceful Jerusalem.
What is David Be’eri’s lifetime achievement, for which he is receiving a prize? Since Be’eri and his followers arrived in Silwan, they have cast families out of their homes, damaged residents’ homes, and life there has become one of constant fear and conflict. Children in Silwan grow up in a cruel reality; many of them have been harmed by the actions of the private militias that escort the settlers, and have experienced violent harassment, shooting incidents, arrests and displacement. Due to settler activity, about 100 families in Silwan are currently at risk of eviction from their homes, about 200 families are at risk of home demolitions, and dozens of families have lost their homes after being driven out by state-backed settlers. Many other houses have been damaged due to archaeological excavations initiated by Elad. Be’eri is responsible for a belligerent enterprise that is driving us all into an irrevocable reality of hatred and escalation.
David Be’eri’s lifetime achievement is fraught with cases of lies, falsification and aggression. This conclusion arises repeatedly from the findings of a Justice Ministry committee, from court rulings, from testimonies of professionals and from a recording in which Be’eri boasts that he systematically deceived the Israel Antiquities Authority. Officials from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority have admitted that they were forced more than once to bow to dictates of Elad personnel in managing the City of David, due to the belligerent conduct of Be’eri and his staff.
The lifetime achievement of Be’eri and his followers is an ongoing pattern of belligerent archaeology; Elad and the state are using the City of David site to trample the present of Silwan and its residents. Instead of highlighting the diverse history of Jerusalem in the distant and recent past, as a city that was always a rich and multifaceted tapestry – archaeology serves them as a tool for erasure and exclusion.
In whose name is the prize being given? The award committee was composed largely of political figures who served in the bureaus of Prime Minister Netanyahu and former minister Gideon Saar. Their Jerusalem is a city of ongoing conflict that begets violence and counter-violence in an endless cycle of escalation.
Jerusalem can be a city of peace and hope. That is the lifetime achievement we advocate.
Say no to awarding the Israel Prize to David Be'eri.
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