Mount of Olives military academy prompts protest

An international protest is being mounted against Israeli government plans to build a large military academy beside the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, home to the Garden of Gethsemane and the place of Jesus’ Ascension.

Plans envisage the construction of an eight-storey building on the ridge between the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus. Five storeys will be underground, with 41,480 square metres of built-up space.

The proposed Mount of Olives military academy is intended to train senior commanders in the Israel Defence Force and the security forces.

The site used to be owned by two Palestinian families. In 1968, following the annexation of East Jerusalem by the state of Israel, it was expropriated by the Israeli government.

In a press release the ministry described the construction of the academy as “a central pillar in strengthening Jerusalem as the centre of national governmental institutions”.

The Israel Defence Force has posted notices of the proposed construction around the Mount of Olives, including on the gate of the Lutheran Church of the Ascension (also known as Augusta Victoria).

Plans were deposited on October 20 and the public was given 60 days to file objections or reservations to the proposal, after which Jerusalem’s regional planning committee will make its decision.

An Independent Catholic News report says: “Experience shows that any military presence brings with it large areas that are deemed closed areas under military law, which subsequently prevent access to roads, fields and homes by the local Palestinian community.”

A group of campaigners based in the United Kingdom has set up a website, called Peace on the Mount of Olives, to oppose the project.

The website includes a statement by Emek Shaveh, an independent organisation of archaeologists and community activists focusing on the role of archaeology in Israeli society.

“If the churches get involved and oppose the plan it could have a great impact,” Emek Shaveh says. “If the churches mention the holiness of the mountain, it might affect the plan. The most effective work, for you as outsiders, will be to influence the churches to object to the plan. I think that the Israeli authorities will be affected by pressure from churches and foreign governments.”


Independent Catholic News

Peace on the Mount of Olives


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