Silwan- Opening a “pilgrims tunnel” in Wadi Hilweh…and the neighborhood’s facilities are at risk of collapsing
June 30, 2019


On Sunday afternoon, the Israeli occupation authorities opened a tunnel underneath the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh in Silwan, with the participation of the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Sarah Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson, the wife of a settler donor.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center-Silwan said that Elad settlement association opened today the first section of the tunnel called "Pilgrims Road" and starts from "Ein Silwan" Al-Ein Street, to the middle of Wadi Hilweh Road "Wadi Hilweh" playground, 350 meters long and 7 meters wide. It will be completed after about a year, where it will reach the courtyard of Dung Gate.

Elad settlement association claims that the tunnel is part of the pilgrims' route to the Second Temple from the first century AD, where the pilgrims passed by the "temple", according to their claims.

A recording of the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was published at the opening ceremony of the tunnel where he is demolishing a wall in the tunnel.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center explained that the occupation authorities closed the Wadi Hilweh and Al-Ein streets in the village of Silwan, and spread in the nearby neighborhoods and at the entrances to the village. The iron barriers were placed in several areas and the forces obstructed the movement of citizens and made them take long alternative roads.

The center said that the activists of the Israeli left staged a demonstration at the entrance of Wadi Hilweh neighborhood against the opening of the tunnel and the settlement expansion inside the Arab neighborhoods. They raised slogans reading "You are a barrier to peace." The Israeli occupation forces assaulted the participants, and prevented them from walking in Wadi Hilweh Street towards Al-Ein Street (Tunnel entrance); the forces arrested an activist.

The center added that the celebration of the opening of tunnels under the neighborhoods of Silwan comes at the expense of the owners of the land. Their lives are in danger of due to settlement projects, and this tunnel is one of a complex network of tunnels under Wadi Hilweh neighborhood.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center- Silwan- confirmed that the Israeli occupation authorities continue digging in a complex network of tunnels under the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood, starting from the Al-Ein area and passing through the Wadi Hilweh main street towards the Kedem settlement project / Dung Gate Square and the " Al-Buraq Square ", the western wall of the mosque.

The center added that "digging tunnels" has been going on down the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood for 13 years, resulting in extensive landslides and cracks in several areas in the neighborhood, especially "the main street and the mosque and kindergarten of the neighborhood," in addition to more than 80 houses that were affected in varying degrees. More than Five than five houses were classified as "dangerous" by the Israeli municipality after their foundations were damaged.

The Center noted that the serious landslides that occurred last March, particularly in the playground of Wadi Hilweh neighborhood and its walls, and in the land belonging to the "Orthodox Church” are located above the path of the newly opened tunnel.

The center explainedthat digging below the Wadi Hilweh area does not stop, and the drilling is done with heavy tools, and the dust is emptied from the bottom of the earth and transported by designated trucks.

The center added that the occupation authorities prevented Palestinians from entering some of the tunnels below the neighborhood. The residents' committee demanded through their lawyers to enter the tunnels to see the works that threaten the entire neighborhood. However, the request was rejected. The occupation authorities allow access to only certain parts of the tunnels.