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Without funds, Ammunition Hill expects to close (JERUSALEM POST) By MELANIE LIDMAN 02/17/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/VideoArticles/Video/Article.aspx?id=258172 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The museum and memorial at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem will close on Monday if the site does not receive NIS 2 million by Monday afternoon, the director of the museum announced on Thursday. Ammunition Hill was the site of a fierce paratrooper’s battle during the 1967 Six Day War, and the victory on the hilltop was a significant turning point in the Israeli army’s campaign for Jerusalem.

More than 200,000 people visit the site every year, including 80,000 soldiers, said Katri Maoz, the director of Ammunition Hill who was also a senior officer in the Paratroopers. But since the state attorney forbid the site from collecting an entrance fee two years ago because it is a government site and should be free, the site has struggled financially.

“We’re not closing because we want to demonstrate,” said Maoz. “We’re closing because the Defense Ministry does not allow us to operate in a respectable and dignified way,” he said. “I can’t even pay the salaries of the six people who work here.”

Katri said the site needed NIS 2 million per year to continue operations. If they do not receive this additional help by Monday, the site will close to the public after a beret ceremony for the paratroopers and will not reopen to the public, he said.

Government sites open to the public, like Ammunition Hill, are not allowed to charge visitors an entrance fee. But Katri said the area, which is home to a museum, amphitheater, events hall, educational center, multiple memorials and an interactive light show, said it needs the fees to keep the facilities operating smoothly.

Tickets used to cost NIS 15 for adults and NIS 10 for children, though less than half of the visitors actually paid since soldiers and the disabled entered for free, said site officials. Almost all paratroopers and medics visit the site during the course of their service.

At State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s insistence, the site stopped charging admission on January 1, 2010. Lindenstrauss had been warning the site for two years prior to stop charging admission, and the site agreed after the Defense Ministry said it would try to secure extra money for its upkeep.

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said the budget for Ammunition Hill was increased from NIS 830,000 last year to NIS 910,000 for the current year. She stressed that the Ministry would continue to support memorials in honor of fallen soldiers and their families.

“It was a shock, until now, I never thought it would be an option to close this place,” said Michael Lanir, who was severely injured as a 25-year-old soldier on Ammunition Hill. The 70-year-old volunteer frequently leads groups at the site and talks about his experiences.

He stressed that visiting the site of the actual battle was important to many generations of Israeli soldiers, who can get a deeper understanding of the battle by seeing the area and listening to the stories of veterans.

“New soldiers are very interested in the personal feelings when you are in combat. It’s very important for them to understand how you operate, what are your emotions, how you feel, what you feel about the enemy,” said Lanir. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/17/12)

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