Ir David Foundation

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A harp of King David at the entrance to the City of David in Jerusalem

Ir David Foundation or City of David Foundation, commonly known as Elad [El'ad] (Hebrew: אלע"ד, an acronym for "אל עיר דוד", meaning "to the City of David") is a Jerusalem-based,[1] Israeli settler association which aims to strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and renew the Jewish community in the City of David, which is also part of the neighborhood of Silwan.[2] The foundation works to achieve its goals by tourism, education, archaeological excavations and obtaining homes in the area to establish a Jewish presence.[3]


"Ir David" - or the City of David is the name given to a site beyond the southern edge of Jerusalem's Temple Mount and Old City, with the Tyropoeon Valley on its west, the Hinnom valley to the south, and the Kidron Valley on the east.[4] Modern Jewish settlement on the ridge in the City of David began in 1873–1874, when the Meyuchas family, a Jewish rabbinical and merchant family that had lived in Jerusalem since their expulsion from Spain, moved a short distance outside the city walls to a house in the area.[5] With the outbreak of 1936 riots Jews were advised by the British authorities to leave the area since they could not guarantee their safety.[6] The foundation was founded in 1986 by David Be’eri a former deputy commander of Duvdevan Unit, with the intention to purchase the former Meyuchas family home and other properties in the city.[7] In 1986 they were granted the authority to work on behalf of the Jewish National Fund to reclaim land in the area.[8] For a long time, Elad refused to provide the names of its funders and when they did they requested successfully that the names be kept under privilege.[9] In 2016, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed that the organization received 450 million shekels (US$115 million) in donations between 2006 and 2013.[10] Most of the money came via corporations in international tax havens whose owners could not be identified.[10] About half of Elad's income between 2003 and 2018, amounting to 348 million shekels, came from four companies registered in the Virgin Islands.[11] Documents in the leaked FinCEN Files revealed in 2020 that at least three of the four companies are owned by Russian–Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich.[11]



Inside the Siloam tunnel 2010

To expand tourist activity, the foundation created a massive marketing campaign which led to a sharp increase in the number of visitors in recent years. In 2001 the foundation had only 25,000 visitors, but 250,000 in 2006 and 350,000 in 2007.[12] In a program called "Ancient Jerusalem", they bring visitors to the three sites of Biblical Jerusalem, the City of David, Armon HaNetziv and the Mount of Olives.[13] There were 450,000 visitors in 2011.[14]


Ir David invests considerable resources in education and strengthening ties to Jerusalem, and increasing the knowledge of and research of Ancient Jerusalem. In association with the IDF, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and Yad Ben Zvi, the foundation gives day tours of Jerusalem to soldiers, with an emphasis on sites connected to Jewish heritage and Zionism. The association operates weekends and seminars on leadership and Zionism among the officers, held at various tourist sites in Ancient Jerusalem. The association also works in conjunction with Bnei Akiva, a religious Zionist youth movement, giving visitors educational tours.

In 2001, the foundation established the Megalim Institute dedicated to expanding knowledge of Jerusalem in the fields of history, archaeology and the Bible. The institute teaches academics both in Israel and internationally through courses, seminars and tours. Every year the institute hosts the 'City of David Archaeological Conference', where excavators and researchers present the latest innovations in the study of Jerusalem. Megalim Institute also publishes various books and publications in areas relevant to historical research.

Archaeological excavations[edit]

Ir David Foundation funds most of the archaeological excavations conducted in recent years in the City of David and the surrounding areas. All excavations are conducted by the Antiquities Authority, or with their approval. Among the many excavation sites the association found in 2005 the proposed Pool of Siloam 200 meters from another "Pool of Siloam" which was a fifth-century reconstruction [15] and the road that connected the Spring to the Temple.[8] The pool was used as Mikveh for ritual purification performed before visiting the Temple.[16]

While the archaeological sites are clearly from at least the Second Temple Period, there is no clear evidence of the presence of King David or Solomon at the site. However, much of the narrative in Samuel and Kings I is consistent with the archaeologic discoveries,[citation needed] including the water shaft through which David's troops are described scaling when they entered the city and captured it from the Jebusites. Both names appear in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1). The two men were ministers in the court of King Zedekiah, the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple.

In December 2008 excavations funded by the foundation found a large hoard of over 250 gold coins, dated to around the seventh century near the end of the Byzantine period.[17] A clay seal bearing the name of Gedaliah son of Pashhur was also found. His name is explicitly mentioned in the Bible (Book of Jeremiah 38:1).[18] The foundation also funded excavation of a house the archaeologists suspect belonged to Helena of Adiabene,[19] a fourth-century mansion,[4][20] and an ancient water tunnel.[21][22]

Home purchases[edit]

Ir David purchases houses in Silwan and rents them to Jewish families. According to the foundation, some houses in Silwan were originally owned by Jews before the establishment of the state, representing the Jewish settlement of Kfar Shiloah, established for immigrants from Yemen in the late 19th century. As of 2009, 75 Jewish families live in properties owned by the Association.

The Ir David foundation acquires property in the city of David and surroundings in one of four ways:

  • Locating assets belonging to Jews in the city of David and seeking legal action to return them to the original owner.[23]
  • Buying properties declared absentee property. According to Haaretz, Elad took control of properties by making a very dubious use of the Israeli 'Absentees Property Law'[24]
  • Persuading Arab residents to voluntarily sell their homes to Jews.[23]

The foundation endeavours to buy up property from Muslims in the area, but the acquisition of houses is complex, since under Waqf law, Muslims are not permitted to sell their land to Jews, since according to Islamic jurisprudence the lands they dwell on belongs to Allah. Elad employs Muslim middle men as brokers to bypass the Waqf rules and to purchase the properties.[25]

In September 2014, Ir David Foundation aided residents moving into 25 apartments in Silwan, the largest acquisition in the foundation's history.[26] The apartments were spread over seven different buildings, which were purchased by Ir David Foundation through a US shadow organization.[27]


The largest single funder of the organization is Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and the companies he controls, which have donated $100 million. These donations came to light through a leak of bank documents known as the FinCEN Files that had been submitted to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.[28]


On archaeology[edit]

In 1997, the organisation was sued by the Israeli state for damaging archaeological remains and for building on a historic site without a permit, and the Israel Antiquities Authority strongly recommended that the upkeep and control of the archaeological sites not be handed over to the organisation.[29] In 1998 a proposed contract to do this was annulled. However, in 2002 the contract was re-confirmed, this time without opposition from the IAA, and from that time the organisation has had responsibility for the preservation and maintenance of the City of David National Park.

In 1999, unauthorized construction on the Temple Mount by the Waqf resulted in trucks fulls of dirt filled with archaeological artifacts being dumped. In 2005 the Ir David Foundation joined a Bar Ilan University and the National Parks Authority, Temple Mount Sifting Project, where volunteers and professionals recover these artifacts. Thousands of artifacts have been recovered including 5,000 ancient coins.[30][31] In March 2017, the Temple Mount Sifting Project announced it stopped collaborating with the Ir David Foundation.[32] The reason was not published.

In 2011, a leading Israeli specialist on the archeology of Jerusalem, Dr. Eilat Mazar, who in the past collaborated with the Elad foundation, wrote a letter protesting the foundation's lack commitment to "scientific archeological work". In particular she expressed concerns over their intention to demolish a wall in a subterranean trench called "Jeremiah's Pit," which she regards as part of a tourist gimmick. The Antiquities Authority replied that she was only trying to appropriate the site for herself. Elad countered that her contract forbids her from complaining about future excavations.[33]

Elad was blamed by Silwan residents when a channel dug for archaeological excavations partially collapsed in December 2011 near the village's mosque.[34] The excavations were carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by Elad.

On evictions[edit]

Critics accuse the foundation of methodically moving of Jerusalem to "Judaicize" the city.[24][clarification needed] The foundation says its actions are legal under Israeli law.[23]

In December 2011, joint activities between the Elad Association and the Jewish National Fund in Israel (JNF-KKL) led to Seth Morrison's resignation from the board of JNF-USA, the JNF's arm in the United States. Morrison resigned in protest at the decision by Himnuta, a subsidiary of JNF-KKL, to launch eviction proceedings against the Sumarin family, who lived in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem.[35] In the case of the Sumarin family, the children of the original owner, Musa Sumarin, were declared absentees after his death even though there were other family members living in the home at the time. In 1991, the Israeli government transferred the property to the JNF subsidiary.[36] In a letter to The Jewish Daily Forward,[37] Morrison said the action on the Sumarin home "is not an isolated case. JNF has gained ownership of other Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and, in many instances, then transferred these properties through its subsidiaries to Elad, a settler organization whose purpose is to “Judaize” East Jerusalem". Under Israel's controversial Absentee Property Law, the state may reclaim homes whose owners were not present in 1967, when Israel took control of East Jerusalem. Morrison said that the expulsion of the Sumarin family was a violation of human rights, and part of the systematic transfer of Palestinian property to ideological settlers who wish to put facts on the ground that hinder a lasting peace agreement. A campaign against the eviction was launched by T'ruah then known as Rabbis for Human Rights, and by the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement,[38] and in the United Kingdom by the Jewish organization Yachad.[39] In response to these campaigns the JNF delayed the eviction.[38]

On authority over national park[edit]

Ir Amim and others petitioned the High Court in July 2010, to cancel an agreement between the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and Elad because of secret transfer of authority to Elad, which would carry out a political agenda.[40] The Court ordered some changes and a new three-year contract was signed.[41]


  1. ^ Bezek. "עמותת אלע"ד". Business and Foundations Listing. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  2. ^ Ashur, Ornit (19 October 2010). תלונה: פריצה לאתר של עמותת אלע"ד (in Hebrew). Elad (the City of David) is an organization whose declared purpose is to strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and renew the Jewish community in the city of David (translated)
  3. ^ אליקים העצני (2008-04-17). ארכיאולוגיה או אידיאולוגיה?. News1 (in Hebrew).
  4. ^ a b "Jerusalem — Ir David". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  5. ^ Eliezer David Jaffe, Yemin Moshe:The Story of a Jerusalem Neighborhood, Praeger, 1988, p. 51.
  6. ^ Shimi Friedman, 'Adversity in a Snowball Fight: Jewish Childhood in the Muslim village of Sillwan,' in Drew Chappell (ed.) Children under construction: critical essays on play as curriculum, Peter Lang Publishing 2010, pp.259-276, pp.260-261.
  7. ^ "The Ir David Foundation". Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  8. ^ a b Rossner, Rena (January 26, 2006). "The once and future city". The Jerusalem Post.
  9. ^ Ahdaf Soueif, "The dig dividing Jerusalem," The Guardian (26 May 2010) [Retrieved: 29 May 2010]
  10. ^ a b Uri Blau and Nir Hasson (March 6, 2016). "Right-wing Israeli Group Elad Received Millions From Shadowy Private Donors". Haaretz.
  11. ^ a b Uri Blau (22 September 2020). "Companies Linked to Roman Abramovich Donated $100 Million to E. Jerusalem Right-wing Group". Haaretz.
  12. ^ Mitchell, Chris (May 22, 2008). "Scripture Comes Alive in the City of David". CBN News. Retrieved December 7, 2009.
  13. ^ Lockerman, Chana (December 14, 2006). "Back in time to the City of David". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved November 15, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Court favors right-wing group on City of David park".
  15. ^ Thomas H. Maugh II (August 9, 2005). "Biblical Pool of Siloam found". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ Lefkovits, Etgar (December 14, 2006). "Road to Temple Mount uncovered". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved November 15, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Hoard Of Hundreds Of Antique Gold Coins Uncovered In Walls Around Jerusalem National Park". Science Daily. January 29, 2009. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  18. ^ "Unique biblical discovery at City of David excavation site". Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs. 18 Aug 2008. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  19. ^ "Impressive Second Temple edifice uncovered in the City of David, Jerusalem". Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs. 5 Dec 2007. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  20. ^ Julian, Hana Levi (August 17, 2009). "Ancient Roman 'Urban Mansion' Revealed in City of David". IsraelNN Syndications. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  21. ^ Flurry, Stephen (January 2009). "Did King David Conquer Jerusalem Using This Tunnel?". The Trumpet. Archived from the original on January 5, 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  22. ^ "Ir David Foundation uncovers water tunnel" (in Hebrew). Israel TV Channel 1. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  23. ^ a b c שנור, רויטל (3 November 2004). עיר בה דוידל'ה חנה (in Hebrew). Israel National News. חשוב לנו שיידעו שהכל נעשה באופן חוקי, ביושר ותמורת כסף מלא("It is important to us to let them know that everything was done legally, honestly and fully for money")
  24. ^ a b Meron Rapoport "The republic of Elad", Haaretz (23-04-2006) [Retrieved 29-05-2010]
  25. ^ Shimi Friedman, 'Adversity in a Snowball Fight,' p.261.
  26. ^ Jews occupy once-Arab apartments
  27. ^ You, American taxpayer, are helping to fund Israeli settlements
  28. ^ BBC News, September 2020, "Israeli Settlers' Chelsea Boss Backer"
  29. ^ Yigal Bronner, Archaeologists for hire, The Guardian, 1 May 2008
  30. ^ Shragai, Nadav (December 21, 2008). "Rare first century half shekel coin found in Temple Mount dirt". Haaretz. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  31. ^ Shragai, Nadav (October 19, 2006). "Temple Mount dirt uncovers First Temple artifacts". Haaretz. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  32. ^ "Temple Mount sifting project at a crossroads". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2018-02-07.
  33. ^ Nir Hasson, ‘Leading archaeologist slams Elad excavation at Jerusalem's City of David,’ in Haaretz 11 October 2011
  34. ^ Nir Hasson (2011-12-28). "Silwan residents blame right-wing group for collapse of tunnel near mosque". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  35. ^ Haaretz and Nir Hasson (2011-12-14). "JNF board member resigns to protest eviction of East Jerusalem Palestinian family". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  36. ^ Nir Hasson (2011-11-11). "Palestinian family given two weeks to vacate East Jerusalem home". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  37. ^ Seth Morrison (2011-12-13). "JNF Board Member Quits Over Evictions". The Forward. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  38. ^ a b Nir Hasson (2011-11-27). "JNF delays eviction of Palestinian family from East Jerusalem home". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  39. ^ Hannah Weisfeld (2011-12-09). "Eviction assaults Israel's values". Jewish Chronicle. United Kingdom. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  40. ^ Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, Israeli bill to give settler group authority in Silwan. IMEU, 5 May 2011
  41. ^ Lidman, Melanie (26 March 2012). "Court favors right-wing group on City of David park". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 15 March 2013.

External links[edit]

Major archeological finds[edit]