At its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), the World Heritage Committee was informed about the on-going activities carried out by the Israeli authorities in the Old City of Jerusalem and of the progress in the implementation of the UNESCO action plan for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of the Old City. An up-date was also presented to the World Heritage Committee concerning the issue of the Mughrabi Ascent. The World Heritage Committee, in its Decision 32 COM 7A.18, strongly supported the implementation of the action plan and reiterated its concern about the archaeological excavations undertaken in the Old City of Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities. Concerning the Mughrabi Ascent, the World Heritage Committee recalled that no measures, unilateral or otherwise, should be taken which will affect the authenticity and integrity of the site, requested the Israeli authorities to continue the cooperation engaged with all concerned parties, in particular with Jordanian and Waqf experts and asked the World Heritage Centre to organize a technical follow-up meeting at the site with all concerned parties for additional exchanges of information to enable all necessary inputs to be considered. The Reinforced Monitoring mechanism, applied since the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee, was thus re-conducted.
In March 2009, the World Heritage Centre addressed letters to the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian delegations to UNESCO, requesting contributions to prepare the present document. A report was transmitted by the Israeli National Commission for UNESCO to the World Heritage Centre on 22 March 2009 and by the Jordanian Permanent Delegation on 4 May 2009.
It is to be noted that since 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem is de facto administered by the Israeli authorities. Therefore, all new constructions and conservation projects are in principle subject to the administrative jurisdiction of the Municipality and usually supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
I. Report from the Israeli authorities
The report of the Israeli authorities presenting the activities and projects is summarized hereunder:
a) Status of plans affecting the Old City:
The Outline Town Planning Scheme (No 2000) for the whole Municipal area has been approved for deposition with modifications, in the District Planning Commission. The Commission’s decision includes important remarks concerning the conservation of the built heritage, such as the definition of three zones of conservation: The Old City, the visual basin of the Old City and the Historic City; a set of conditions and of planning principles relating to the above areas and guidelines for preparing detailed plans, including conservation directives.
The process for planning, renewal, revitalization and preservation of the Old City is in its third stage. The work includes a list of prioritized projects including infrastructure and sites for immediate conservation. In addition, a catalogue of listed buildings, monuments and elements in the public realm is being completed. These sites are cross-referenced to the UNESCO Action plan.
b) Conservation projects:
(i) Rehabilitation and preservation of monuments within the Old City:
Prefaced by a thorough survey, the goal of this project lead by the IAA is to consolidate an agreed list of monuments in the public realm. Work commenced this year on the so called Ottoman Tombs inside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. This included the consolidation and conservation of the compound and the removal of extraneous vegetation.
(ii) Rehabilitation and management of the Old City walls and gates:
A comprehensive state of conservation survey undertaken by the Israel Antiquities commenced in 2007. Work continued last year on the towers between Burj el-Laqlaq on the north-eastern corner of the Old City and Herod's Gate (Bab es-Zahare). Further conservation was conducted at the Zion Gate and on the internal and external faces of the southern wall of the Old City.
(iii) Haram ash-Sharif
The report received from the Israeli authorities also mentions works carried out by the Jerusalem Waqf within the Haram ash-Sharif, the main being the following:
- The repair of the outer wall of the Zawiyyeh al-Khanthaniyya to the south of the el-Aqsa Mosque continued.
- Al-Aqsa – Continued repair of the Zakhariah and Arbain shrines. Work on the roof to prevent leakage with lead sheeting on a wooden frame is an ongoing project.
- Dome of the Rock: the Veneto School of Conservation from Venice has continued its project to analyse the state of the dome. Work started to consolidate the wood of the dome. Replacement of marble wall facing on the inside of the monument continued. Leakage around the crowning crescent was sealed.
- Solomon's Stable (Marwani Mosque): Work continued on the fifth of the thirteen vaults.
- Maintenance – general works including grouting and the replacement of broken stones continued at Bab el-Hadid and Ardawiyyah Madrasa.
(iv) The Holy Sepulchre
The report received from the Israeli authorities also mentions works carried out at the Holy Sepulchre, notably that the Franciscans conducted a project to consolidate the 12th century frescos in the Chapel of the Invention of the Cross using an Italian team of restorers.
The Greek authorities have continued grouting works in the rooms north of the Rotunda. Further conservation of the belfry architectural elements was conducted by the IAA for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
c) Archaeological excavations:
(i) Western Wall tunnels
The report of the Israeli authorities mentions excavation works carried out in the Old City, notably those in the vaults under the Great Bridge (Street of the Chain) which produced extremely important information concerning the founding of the bridge in the Herodian period and the subsequent expansion and reconstruction that formed part of Roman Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina. Further excavation exposed rooms of the Hasmonean (Hellenistic) period and remains of a Crusader building.
Continued major conservation works are being conducted in many sections of the site including the vaults below Madrasa Baladiyya, the Great Bridge, the Hasmonean aqueduct, and the Struthion Pool.
(ii) Salvage excavations
Small excavations were conducted at a number of sites in the Old City during the repairs of houses in the Muslim, Christian and Jewish quarters producing finds from the Umayyad, Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
d) Construction works
(i) Western Wall Plaza – Strauss building
An addition to an existing building, in order to accommodate the Western Wall police station and offices of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is proposed. The plan is currently under discussion in the Planning Commissions prior to deposition. The IAA is now preparing historical documentation and a conservation file.
(ii) Ohel Yizhak Synagogue
The rebuilding of the synagogue destroyed in the 1936 riots was completed and conservation was conducted in the huge Mamluk vaults around the structure.
It is to be noted that this building is located in the Muslim Quarter, adjacent to the Hamman Al-Ain. The plans of this reconstruction (concrete structures higher that the surrounding urban fabric) were not made available to the World Heritage Centre.
(iii) Zion Gate underground parking
A plan has been submitted to the District Commission. IAA is meanwhile organizing funds in order to carry out the necessary excavation for evaluation of the feasibility of the project.
(iv) Criteria for issuing building permits
This proposal aims at solving a burning issue in the Old City until the approval of an overall plan. Prepared by the Municipality, the District Planning bureau and the master-plan team, it now awaits discussion in the Local Planning Commission.
e) Plans and activities outside the Old City walls
The report also mentions a series of projects located outside the Old City walls, such as a East city commercial centre, including the neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarah and Wadi Joz; the development of the public realm in the East city, a wholesale market at the foot of the Rockefeller museum; a square at the north-western corner of the Old City and the last stage of the building of the Mamilla area. Excavations at Mont Zion, the Givati car park, Silwan, etc. are also mentioned as well as the project to establish a buffer zone being the visual basin of the Old City, within the context of the Town Planning scheme.
II. Report from the Jordanian authorities
On 4 May 2009, the Permanent Delegation of Jordan addressed a short report to the World Heritage Centre, by which it provided information on the works carried out by the Ministry of Awqaf in the Haram ash-Sharif, such as:
a) ongoing restoration of mosaics and polychromatic wood in the Dome of the Rock, in collaboration with an Italian institution (Istituto Veneto per i beni culturali);
b) restoring the surface of the roof of Al Aqsa Mosque in its eastern part;
c) restoring part of the courtyards of Al Aqsa Mosque;
d) restoring the southern wall of the Khanthaniah school at the southern wall of Al Aqsa Mosque;
e) executing 95% of the fire alarm system for Al Aqsa;
f) restoring about 50% of the internal marble walls of the Dome of the Rock.
The report stresses the difficulties of bringing restoration materials within the compound of the Haram ash-Sharif and the fact that the Waqf was not allowed by the Israeli authorities to build the crescent above the Dome of the Rock. It is also mentioned that on Sunday 5 April, the Israeli authorities “extracted an ancient archaeological large stone from the Omeyyad palaces south of the Al Aqsa Mosque and transferred it to an unknown place”.
The remain of the report focuses on the excavations carried out by the Israeli authorities “underneath and around Al Aqsa in different unknown directions, in Al Boraq Yard (Magharbeh Quarter) and in different locations inside the Old city of Jerusalem […] besides Waqf properties of Hamman Al-Ain and Hammam Al-Shifa”. 
It also mentions the building of the new synagogue in the area. Part of the report refers to the issue of the Mughrabi ascent (see below, item V) and express the concern of the Jordanian authorities regarding the access to the site by the Jordanian technical team “to make the necessary measurements and survey to develop and complete the Jordanian proposed conceptual design”.
III. Action Plan for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem
A mission from the World Heritage Centre to Jerusalem took place from 9-15 March 2009, during which the feasibility of the remaining activities foreseen within the first phase of the action plan funded by the Italian Government was examined:
a) Development of a World Heritage Education programme, the target group of which are 12-16 year old students, within the framework of the UNESCO Special Project “Young People’s Participation in World Heritage Preservation and Promotion”. Already available materials will be distributed, including Introducing Young People to Heritage Site Management and Protection (adapting an activity initiated in 2002 in Petra by UNESCO and ICCROM to the case of Jerusalem), and the World Heritage in Young Hands Kit. During the mission, It was agreed with the staff of the Burj Al Luq Luq Social Centre (a NGO with which the previous cultural activities -the DREAMs Centre project- had been carried out in the first phase of the action plan) that they will dedicate to World Heritage issues two of their summer camps in July/August 2009.
b) The foreseen development of an Apprenticeship programme supporting the costs of a training-on-the job activity for unemployed young people (16-25 year olds) is not feasible in the present conditions and has been abandoned.
Concerning the restoration of the church of St. John Prodromos in Jerusalem, funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation, the activities of the first phase are focusing on preliminary studies and the architectural design in order to define the detailed restoration interventions that will be carried out in the following years. During the above mentioned mission, discussions were held with the technical office of the Greek-orthodox Patriarchate and the international expert identified, in order to launch the studies for the preparation of the detailed conservation project
In addition, the first of the identified priority projects in the action plan -the restoration of the Armenian Cathedral of St. James-, has found a sponsor in the Pro Sacris Locis Foundation. The project is being developed directly by this Italian catholic foundation, and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre has accepted to be associated to the initiative and to provide its technical and scientific assistance.
IV. Other projects
The first phase of the development of an Architectural Heritage Preservation Institute, in partnership with the Welfare Association and thanks to funding from the European Commission, has been completed, notably the development of the curriculum and a pilot training course. The second Steering Committee meeting took place in Jerusalem on 12 March 2009 and was the opportunity to discuss the plan of activities and budget for the coming months.
The project for the Al Aqsa Centre for Restoration of Islamic Manuscripts, located in the Madrasa Al Ashrayfiyyah within the Haram ash-Sharif, funded by the Welfare Association and the United Arab Emirates, has been completed. UNESCO is now seeking funds for a second phase of the project, focusing on the restoration capacity-building that is essential to ensure the sustainability of the Centre.
The project for the “Safeguarding, Refurbishment and Revitalization of the Islamic Museum of al-Haram ash-Sharif and its Collection”, funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has started. It will mainly consist in the following: assess and inventory the collections, improve conservation measures, upgrade storage and exhibitions spaces and develop the conservation, management and administrative capacities.
V. The Mughrabi Ascent
At its 31st session (Christchurch, New Zealand, July 2007), the World Heritage Committee adopted Decision 31 COM 7A.18, by which it requested “the World Heritage Centre to facilitate the professional encounter at the technical level between Israeli, Jordanian and Waqf experts to discuss the detailed proposals for the proposed final design of the Mughrabi ascent, prior to any final decision”. Accordingly,two professional meetings took place in Jerusalem on 13 January and 24 February 2008 between Israeli and Jordanian (including Waqf) experts.
The Reinforced Monitoring mechanism, requested by the Executive Board at its 176th session (176 EX/Special Plenary Meeting decision) and by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st and 32nd sessions respectively (Decisions 31 COM 5.2., 31 COM 7A.18 and 32 COM 7A.18), was applied for Jerusalem with regard to the Mughrabi Ascent. Six reinforced monitoring reports were prepared by the World Heritage Centre in this respect (October 2007, February 2008, March 2008, May 2008, October 2008, and February 2009) and forwarded to the concerned parties and the members of the World Heritage Committee.
In its Decision 32 COM 7A.18, the World Heritage Committee also requested the Israeli authorities “to continue the cooperation engaged with all concerned parties, in particular with Jordanian and Waqf experts” and asked the World Heritage Centre to “organize a technical follow-up meeting at the site with all concerned parties for additional exchanges of information to enable all necessary inputs to be considered”.
The World Heritage Centre undertook the relevant consultations and the date of 12 November 2008 was agreed upon by all concerned parties. On 10 November 2008, a letter from the Permanent Delegation of Jordan informed that the Jordanian Government requested the foreseen meeting to be postponed “until a date when it can get its own experts and equipment on the site in order to take the appropriate measurements, necessary to finalise the design of the project”. The letter also informed the World Heritage Centre that “the Jordanian government is in touch with the Israeli Government in order to facilitate such a task” and that therefore “any further meeting […] should take place with a finalised Jordanian design”. The follow-up meeting was therefore postponed.
In the meantime, the Israeli National Commission for UNESCO forwarded to the World Heritage Centre, in a letter dated 31 August 2008, the decision “regarding the town planning scheme for the Mughrabi ascent” which had been translated into English. The Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Commission“decided to approve the plan for validity”, subject to a series of stipulations. One of the objectors has requested, and granted permission, to appeal to the National Council for Planning and Construction. By letters of 21 December 2008 and 29 January 2009, the Israeli National Commission for UNESCO informed that this appeal was presented and discussed on 20 November 2008, but that no decision has yet been published. The Israeli National Commission for UNESCO also indicated that “no works or archaeological activities are taking place on the Mughrabi Ascent”.
In a letter dated 6 February 2009, the Jordanian Authorities indicated that “Jordan is still concerned that the Israeli Authorities are denying the Jordanian technical experts access to the site in order to enable them to take the required measurements and missing information to finalize the Jordanian design”. In that letter, it is also stated that “Jordan’s Government stresses its right to send the Jordanian experts to the site, and reiterates its refusal to all unilateral actions undertaken or [that] will be taken by Israel in this regard, which do not comply with the decisions of the World Heritage Committee”. On 24 February 2009, another letter was addressed to UNESCO by the Permanent Delegation, “concerning the accessibility of the Jordanian experts and their equipment to take the appropriate measurements”, providing a list of ten names of experts (as well as a list of equipment) for whom the Jordanian authorities wish to get the authorization to access the site.
In a letter dated 27 February 2009, the Permanent Delegation of Israel to UNESCO stated that “Israel remains committed to ensuring that all procedures in relation to the process of approval of the proposal will continue to be conducted in a transparent and professional manner and in accordance with the resolutions adopted unanimously on this issue within the framework of the World Heritage Convention, including in particular Decision 32 COM 7A.18 adopted at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec this July which Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as members of the Committee, both supported”. Further to this, a letter dated 31 March 2009 states that “the planning process continues in a completely transparent manner” and that “the next stage will be the preparation of a detailed design in accordance with the approved planning principles yet to be gazetted”. The letter also indicates that “there is no obstacle to holding a further technical follow-up meeting” and that “the Jordanian Authorities are invited for the purpose of discussing the details of the aforementioned design currently being prepared by the Israeli authorities”.
VI. The 181st session of the Executive Board of UNESCO
From 14 to 30 April 2009, the Executive Board of UNESCO held its 181st session. The issue of Jerusalem was presented within two items of the Agenda, i.e. the Report of the Director-General (181 EX/5) and the specific item about the Old City of Jerusalem (181 EX/12). The Permanent Delegation of Jordan distributed a note dated 14 April concerning item 5, focused in particular on the issue of the authorisation of access to the site for the Jordanian experts. The Executive Board adopted Decision 181 EX/5 “regretting the postponement of the follow-up meeting, due to circumstances that have impeded Jordanian experts from having access to the Mughrabi Ascent site”, and by which it “affirms the necessity of cooperation in order to arrange for access to the Mughrabi Ascent site, and calls on the Director-General to organize a follow-up meeting of experts as soon as possible, once the parties concerned have reached an agreement”.
The issue of the archaeological excavations carried out since 1967 by the Israeli authorities in the Old City of Jerusalem has been the object of several discussions at the sessions of the Governing Bodies of UNESCO. These archaeological campaigns are in contradiction with article VI. 32 of the 1956 New Delhi Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations, related to excavations in occupied territory.