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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
5 October 1994

United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Executive Board

Hundred and forty-fifth Session

Item 5.5.1 of the Provisiona1 agenda
145 EX/17
PARIS, 5 October 1994
Original: French



The Director-General submits this document in compliance with decision 5.5.1 adopted by the Executive Board at its 142nd session on the subject of Jerusalem. It has been prepared on the basis of the information available as at 31 August 1994.

1. The Director-General is continuing to pay close attention to the developments in the Middle East which have laid the groundwork for the establishment of a lasting peace in that part of the world. He welcomes that process, and hopes that it will continue and be carried further. With regard to the Old City of Jerusalem, he reports below on the action taken to follow up the directives of the Executive Board and the General Conference.

2. At its 142nd session, the Executive Board examined the report of the Director-General on 'Jerusalem and the implementation of 26 C/Resolution 3.12' and adopted 142 EX/Decision 5.5.1 whereby it decided to include this item in the agenda for its 145th session.

3. At its twenty-seventh session, having examined the report of the Director-General on the same item, the General Conference adopted 27 C/Resolution 3.8, in which, among other things, it invited the Director-General:

'(a) to continue his efforts to secure the implementation of UNESCO's decisions and resolutions concerning Jerusalem, firmly ensuring that the mission conferred on UNESCO by its Constitution, the 1972 Convention and the various resolutions

(b) to have a study undertaken, on an interdisciplinary basis, of a project for inventorying and restoring the cultural property of the Old City of Jerusalem, drawing on the services of experts of high repute in the fields concerned, and to submit the report on this matter to the Executive Board at its 145th session;

(c) to be particularly vigilant in carrying out the task of safeguarding the religious, cultural, and historical heritage and the demographic character of Jerusalem pending the results of the current negotiations, and, as far as the safeguarding operations are concerned, to ensure that they are undertaken with full respect for the Venice Charter and the universally accepted principles in this field;'

and decided to include this question on the agenda of its twenty-eighth session.

4. In compliance with this resolution, the Director-General dispatched a team of experts to Jerusalem to undertake a detailed study of certain technical problems concerning the state of the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra) and to report to him on the solutions to be recommended. A preliminary mission of three specialists from the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) accordingly visited Jerusalem in March 1994. A second mission is due to be sent before the end of 1994 to examine the state of the mosaics, the stucco-work and the interior and exterior lighting.

5. The preliminary projects for the restoration of the Suq al-Qattanin (Cotton Market), the Hammam al-'Ain and the Hammam ash-Shifa' are currently being examined by the Jerusalem Waqf with a view to commencing work thereon.

6. A contract has been drawn up for the restoration of the Khalidi Library, which contains a large number of ancient manuscripts of great historical and cultural value. In particular, this contract concerns cataloguing and microfilming the manuscripts and improving their conditions of storage.

7. With respect to the Holy Sepulchre, in compliance with the resolutions and decisions of the governing bodies of UNESCO, and having informed the parties concerned, the Director-General decided to call a meeting of a Scientific Committee in Jerusalem in September 1994 in order to examine the state of this monument of outstanding historical and religious value, and, if possible, to propose solutions to the problems proposed by its restoration. These problems have been described in previous reports by the Director-General's personal representative, Professor Lemaire, and more particularly in the report of the team of experts sent to Jerusalem by the Director-General in August 1992.

8. Furthermore, the Secretariat is planning the production, in co-operation with all the institutions concerned, of a booklet on the immovable cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem.

9. The balance of the Special Account for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage, and more particularly the Islamic Monuments, of the City of Jerusalem, as at 29 July 1994, is US $2,199,376, following a contribution of $25,000 from the Government of Indonesia, received on 22 November 1993. His Majesty King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has also reiterated his willingness to provide the necessary financial resources for the restoration of the cultural heritage of Jerusalem, as soon as the studies undertaken for that purpose have been accepted.

10. In compliance with the resolutions and decisions of the governing bodies of UNESCO, the Director-General has continued his consultations with all the parties concerned, with a view to drawing up other projects to be financed by the Special Account.

11. In pursuance of 27 C/Resolution 3.8, Professor Lemaire visited Jerusalem from 15 to 21 January 1994 and again from 20 to 24 August 1994. and prepared the following report.

12. Report by the Director-General's personal representative
'Report to Mr Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, on the
safeguarding of the urban and monumental heritage of Jerusalem'

1. Two official missions have been undertaken by your personal representative since the last report, dated 17 August 1993: the first from 15 to 21 January 1994, and the second from 20 to 24 August 1994.

2. Persons interviewed:

2.1 Israelis:

Mr Jonathan Bein, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;

Mr Avi Millo, Director of the Division of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;

Mr Ilan Elgar, diplomat in the same Division;

Mr E. Olmert, Mayor of Jerusalem;

Mr Gaby Padon, diplomatic adviser to the Mayor of Jerusalem;

Mr Itzik Yaacovy, Director of East Jerusalem Development Ltd.;

Mr Dan Bahat, archaeologist of the Western Wall Tunnel;

Ms Anne-Marie Lambert, honorary ambassador;

Mr and Ms Bugod, architects;

Mr Arachminov, architect.

2.2 Arabs:

Sheikh Saalhab, Director-General of Waqfs (Islamic religious endowments) in the occupied territories;

Mr Adnan Husseini, Director of the Waqf of Jerusalem;

Mr Issam Awad, architect-engineer in charge of the restoration of Islamic monuments;

Ms Suad Amery, Director of the Riwaq.

2.3 Christian religious authorities:

Mgr. Timothy. Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox community;

The Rev. Father Nazzaro, Order of Franciscans, Custodian of the Holy Land.

3. Excavations

With the exception of small-scale rescue excavations on sites outside the Old City, preparatory to new construction or reconstruction projects, no new archaeological research operation has been reported to me, either by Israeli officials or by the Arab authorities.

4. The 'tunnel'

Digging in the tunnel excavated during the 1970s under Arab property along the Western Wall of Al-Haram ash-Sharif (the Temple Mount) was discontinued many years ago. The only activity reported in recent years has essentially consisted of alterations designed to make visits easier and more informative. Some of that work, mentioned in previous reports, has occasioned criticism, regarding not only its desirability as such, but also its suitability for the site. There has been no change. In order to understand the situation, it should be borne in mind that the 'tunnel' consists of a long passageway, which is on average a good 1 metre wide and at least 2 metres high, dug along the Western Wall of Al-Haram ash-Sharif, which prolongs the Wailing Wall, beneath Arab property, for a distance of approximately 470 metres. At its northern end, the 'tunnel' cuts across an underground canal approximately 100 metres long leading to a double cistern from the Roman period located for the most part beneath a Waqf property, the Via Dolorosa and a wing of the Soeurs de Sion Convent. This canal was built before the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple by Herod: the wall enclosing the Temple Mount intersects it, thus deflecting it from its original purpose of carrying water to the Holy Place.

In view of the number of visitors (several hundred per day, not counting religious Jews wishing to pray there, since the wall uncovered by the tunnel is an extension of the Wailing Wall), the Israeli authorities responsible for the tunnel have in the last few years made several proposals to create an exit at the northern end of the tunnel. All such plans have been rejected by the Waqf authorities, on whose property such an exit would necessarily be situated.

In recent months, another solution has been adopted: a semi-circular tunnel, more than 2 metres high and 1.5 metres wide, and an underground platform have been dug, allegedly in order to link the two cisterns, which in fact are already linked by two large openings at water level. The main purpose of these alterations is to create a reception area which will enable groups of visitors to pass each other, and thus to double the capacity of the tunnel, which, I am told, has become a 'must' for Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem.

The Waqf authorities have made vigorous protests against this fresh incursion beneath their property, which was carried out without prior agreement or warning. They were alerted by the noise of underground drilling.

Furthermore, according to the testimony of the archaeologist in charge of the tunnel, noise was reduced by the use of a chemical to loosen or even dilute the soft limestone rock. I requested, but was unable to obtain, further technical details of this process. However, the two cisterns are partly obstructed with excavation debris, which it is impossible to evacuate either through the canal or through the tunnel. This debris consists partly of a lime paste, which testifies to the destructiveness of the chemical injected into the rock. Given the highly porous nature of the rock. there is reason to fear that the chemical may have seeped into the untouched bedrock underlying several historic buildings from the Mamluk period which are part of the Al-Haram ash-Sharif complex.

I think it important, and a matter of urgency, that experts independent of the tunnel authorities should examine the situation on site in order to determine the state of the affected bedrock and, if necessary, the remedies that might be used to strengthen it.

It is indispensable to evacuate the debris which has accumulated in the cisterns. This operation can be carried out only with the agreement of the Waqf authorities, who refuse to have anything to do with it. Furthermore, such an operation would require an opening to be made in the Roman vault of one of the cisterns, which is scarcely compatible with the most elementary principles governing the conservation of such precious monuments of antiquity.

5. Urban development in the Old City

The municipality has continued systematically to modernize the infrastructure of the various quarters of the city. In the past year, work has concentrated in particular on the Christian quarter, and more specifically on the area surrounding the Holy Sepulchre. The sewers, water mains and electric power and telephone lines have been modernized; the pavements have been resurfaced in Jerusalem stone; new awnings with striking patterns have been installed; and street lighting has been redesigned, considerably enhancing, inter alia, the appearance of the suqs.

6. Roads in the vicinity of the Old City

There are two trouble-spots: the road (called Ha-Ofel by the Israelis) that runs along the Muslim cemeteries and to the east of Al-Haram ash-Sharif; and the part of the Jaffa Road to the south of the Jaffa Gate that runs through the large Mamilla housing development area. Both roads are part of the small ring road around the Old City, following its walls closely. They carry heavy traffic.

6.1 The southeastern portion of the Ha-'Ofel road overlooks the Valley of Kidron and the three famous ancient monumental tombs: the Tomb of Absalom, the Tomb of St. James and the Tomb of Zechariah. With the Mount of Olives forming a backdrop, these constitute a major tourist attraction, prompting cars and buses to stop along the road, which in this part is narrow and has neither parking facilities nor pedestrian pavements. Numerous accidents occur here every year. The municipality has therefore made plans to create a car park large enough for three buses and several cars, a pedestrian pavement and a terrace in the shape of a round 'belvedere'. The land on either side of the road belongs to the Waqf, which is not inclined to part with the necessary area of approximately 1.500 m2.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the site is particularly sensitive: it overlooks the part of the Valley of Kidron which separates the Old City from the Mount of Olives and provides one of the few remaining views of Jerusalem which has not changed. Nothing has fundamentally affected this landscape for several centuries; it thus constitutes a unique 'historical landscape'. Any development that may be deemed necessary should be carried out with the utmost sensitivity and tact. The project, which is not without its merits and has been designed by a competent architect, may constitute a somewhat over-ambitious response to existing or potential needs. Any development necessitated by obvious safety considerations should be kept to a strict minimum and designed in such a way that the new facilities blend into the landscape. In the immediate vicinity of the area where these facilities are planned, there used to be a wall surrounding an olive grove; the foundations of the wall are still visible, and the wall itself can still be seen in nineteenth-century photographs; it could perhaps be the starting-point for a structure that would be better integrated than the one currently proposed.

6.2 The problems posed by the large Mamilla housing development in the immediate vicinity of the Jaffa Gate of the Old City have been mentioned repeatedly in the reports of the Director-General's personal representative since 1972. On each occasion, attention has been drawn to the dangers inherent in this project, and in particular to the grave menace it constitutes to the superb landscape of the head of the Valley of Hinnom, the southern ramparts of the Old City Wall, the Jaffa Gate and the Citadel. Unfortunately, the now-completed rows of covered car parks, which were doubtless necessary in order to keep all traffic out of the southern area (although it might have been preferable to seek some other solution) are more than ample confirmation of the fears voiced at the time by town planning specialists and by local associations such as 'Beautiful Jerusalem'. Row upon row of car parks marching up the hill crowned by the ramparts, and an outsize bridge spanning the road that runs along the Old City Wall, together conceal the base of the ramparts and introduce into the landscape an abrupt mass of horizontal lines which stands in stark contrast to the harmonious shape of the old fortifications as they follow the gentle slope leading to the Jaffa Gate and the Citadel. This constitutes without a doubt a very serious defacement of a unique landscape, which was one of the gems of the urban setting of the Holy City. The trees which are due to be planted in the car parks will probably help to soften this harsh contrast, but this will not suffice to recapture the well-ordered hierarchy of the now spoiled landscape.

It should be recalled that these car parks are located in a zone which before 1967 was a 'no-man's-land'; this zone had been abandoned since 1948 and was used as a large, open-air, untidy car park. It was surely a mistake not to place Marnilla within the bounds of the nearby national park which covers the rest of the Valley of Hinnom.

7. Islamic monuments

7.1 AI-Haram ash-Sharif

7.1.1 The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra)

For this monument, the main event of the past year has been the renovation of the roof of the Dome itself. This project was financed by a personal donation from King Hussein of Jordan. It has involved a complete renovation of the framework of the roof, the lead roofing material, the esplanade and fireproofing. The new roof of the Dome is made of copper sheets coated with a fine layer of nickel and an outer layer of gold leaf. While not exactly the same size as the traditional lead sheets, the new ones follow a similar pattern. The new roof replaces the result of an unfortunate restoration, carried out a mere 40 years ago, consisting of large plates of anodized aluminium. whose appearance and waterproofing both left much to be desired.

The renovation was completed last May. UNESCO was not consulted beforehand on these plans, which have been executed with consummate skill. Both the materials and the techniques employed should vouch for the watertightness of the roof for a long time to come. Furthermore, with its gilded exterior, the shrine has recovered its former beauty and glory, in accordance with the earliest known descriptions of the edifice.

This work represents the first phase of an urgently needed overall restoration of the monument. Subsequent phases will be aimed at ensuring appropriate preservation and conservation of the marble facing on the outer and inner walls and of the fine Umayyad mosaics, cleaning and restoration of the monumental stucco decorations sculpted inside the dome, and renovation of the interior lighting and exterior illumination of the monumental complex consisting of the Dome of the Rock, the smallnearby Dome of the Chain and the series of arcades located at the four cardinal points of the base of the edifice.

UNESCO has become involved in these projects at the particular request of the Waqf authorities, and has helped with the joint selection and the financing of experts to advise the architect-engineer entrusted with overseeing the work and choosing the most appropriate techniques for its execution.

7.1.2 There are no other developments to report with respect to the restoration of monuments on Al-Hardm ash-Sharif or in its immediate vicinity.

Negotiations are still under way with the Waqf authorities concerning the use of the $150,000 subvention pledged by the Director-General during his visit in 1993. This subvention is intended for an initial phase of restoration of the complex comprising the Suq al-Qattanin (Cotton Market), the most monumental of the approaches to Al-Hardm ash-Sharif, and the two Mamluk hammams (Hammam ash-Shifa' and Hammam al-'Ain). A technical file has been prepared by the architect--engineer of Al-Hardm ash-Sharif, which should make it possible to begin work soon.

7.2 Manuscripts of the Al-Aqsa Mosque

The Al-Aqsa Mosque has a library of highly valuable manuscripts. The curator has compiled an annotated catalogue with illustrations, which will shortly be published with the help of a subvention of $15.000 from UNESCO.

The state of conservation of a number of these manuscripts, including some of the oldest (eighth and ninth centuries) or the most ornate, is giving cause for concern. They should receive urgent attention. However, the appropriate equipment and expertise is not available locally. These volumes should be entrusted to one of the major European institutions specializing in the restoration of old manuscripts and books. Financial assistance from UNESCO is needed for this purpose.

7.3 The restoration of the Turbat Barakat Khan Mausoleum, which contains the celebrated library of the Khalidi family, has been completed, and the installation of the facilities for conservation and consultation of the numerous manuscripts of outstanding value is nearly finished. This work has been carried out in part with the help of a subvention of $60,000 from UNESCO, of which $45,000 has been disbursed. The restoration of the manuscripts and books is being carried out in scientific and technical collaboration with Mr F. Conrad, of the University of London, who has also been asked to compile an annotated catalogue of the 1,200 manuscripts with the financial assistance of the Government of the Netherlands, the Saudi Furgan Foundation and the Khalidi family.

8. Christian monuments

There is nothing new or significant to report with respect to work on the Christian monuments of the city.

8.1 The Holy Sepulchre

The Director-General has decided once again to send the Scientific Committee, which will include several experts, in particular on Byzantine art, to visit the Holy Sepulchre. This mission is scheduled to take place before the session of the Executive Board; the results and conclusions of the mission will be published in a separate report.

8.2 It should also be reported that the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, located in the western part of the city, and which had been virtually abandoned for several decades. is now being restored. Several of its cupolas have already been re-roofed with gilded copper.

R. Lemaire
29 August 1994

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