Israel has painted a portrait of a ‘little’ lady butterfly and a ‘green’ plant in a bid to lure visitors to the holy city.

The Israeli government’s decision to paint the red, white and blue painted lady butterflies in the capital’s Old City, as well as the green plant in the south of the city, was widely criticised, but it has so far drawn praise from Israeli authorities and human rights groups.

In addition, the green flower was reportedly planted by the Jerusalem Municipality to honor a woman who died of AIDS.

The city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, praised the move, saying: “This is a big step forward for the city and for our city, for the whole world.”

He added: “We are very happy that the world can see this city’s commitment to our people.”

He was referring to the fact that Israel has only recently started allowing tourists to photograph the city’s landmarks, with most pictures of ancient Jewish temples or other landmarks in the city going back decades.

Barkat’s statement was backed by the Israel Civil Administration (ICA), which has been responsible for the country’s status as a Jewish state since 1967.IAC chief Rabbi Shmuel Rosensaft said the move showed that “we are open to all of Israel’s residents” and that the city was “fully integrated”.

But he added that the municipality’s decision was “not acceptable” and would lead to an “immediate and negative” impact on tourism.

Rosensaft called on the city to take back the green and red lady butterflies and other plant, saying the city should have known that the “mistake” would draw negative attention.

“They [the IAC] are right.

This is a mistake.

It should not have happened,” Rosensalt said.

He added that he had “grave doubts” about the IAC’s decision, saying that the agency “has not taken into account the history and culture” of the region, adding that he was “gravely disappointed”.

“The city should not be seen as the guardian of history.

The city should be seen not as the ‘miracle of history’, but as a place of peace and a symbol of peace.”

Rosensalt added that “if the municipality continues to paint these plants and flowers as the symbols of peace, it will continue to be viewed as an indicator of the lack of understanding of history and the lack that exists in our city”.

The IAC did not say how many people were involved in the decision to plant the plants, but said it was “an act of pride and patriotism”.

Rosensaf said the plant was not an official gift, and that he did not know who was responsible for it.

He told Al Jazeera that the plants would be planted “to commemorate the woman who tragically passed away, and to honour the memory of the woman”.

The mayor added that Israel’s current status as an independent state “is not the case for a number of reasons”, including “the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948”.

He said he hoped the city would be allowed to “take back the red and white lady butterflies”.

Rosengalt also told Al-Jazeera that he hoped “to see an increased number of tourists” visiting Jerusalem in the coming years, adding: “If we can attract more tourists to our city and the tourism industry, I think we can do better.”