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Join the Campaign: A Museum of Tolerance built on top of a Muslim Cemetery in Jerusalem? Hard to Believe?

A Museum of Tolerance built on top of a Muslim Cemetery in Jerusalem? Hard to Believe?

It must be stopped!!!!

Join the Campaign


October 29, 2008

Can you even imagine the possibility of the State of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality building a Museum of Tolerance on the site of a Muslim Cemetery in the heart of Jerusalem? Well it is happening. We tried to fight it in court but we lost. Imagine what would happen if someone in Europe - in Germany or Austria for instance, tried to build a Museum of Tolerance on top of Jewish graves.

The legal battle has been lost, now we must move on to the political battle. We must prevent this museum from being built on that site. Jerusalem will never be a city of peace if this is allowed to move forward.

Jerusalem is the one city in the world where there is a real potential to demonstrate that Jews, Christians and Muslims can live together in peace, understanding and real tolerance. Jerusalem is the place where we can learn to celebrate the diversities of our civilizations. If the construction of this museum is allowed to resume on top of a Muslim cemetery of religious and historical importance in the center of Jerusalem, this Holy city, will never realize its potential.

For the peace of Jerusalem, for the chance of peace, understanding and tolerance between Jews, Muslims and Christians we must stop this dangerous act.

We call on the Government of Israel and the Municipality of Jerusalem to stop the construction of the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in name of public safety and in protection of the reputation of the State of Israel and the safety of Jews all around the world.

We call on Jerusalemites, Israelis and Palestinians to join our campaign.

We call on the candidates for Mayor of Jerusalem and for the Jerusalem City Council to speak out during the remaining days of the campaign – promise us that you won’t let this Museum be built in the Mamilla Cemetery.

We call on the Chief Rabbis of Israel not to let this shame on Judaism take place. In the name of Judaism, do not allow this Museum to built on top of Muslim graves.

We call on Israelis and Palestinians alike to send letters to your Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers urging them to stop the construction of the Museum in that location.

We call on Jews all over to write to the Wiesenthal Center Director Rabbi Hier urging him to change the location of the Museum. We urge Jews everywhere to write to the Government of Israel voice your objection to building a Museum of Tolerance on top of Muslim graves.

We call on Rabbis around the world to join the campaign. We are looking for several Rabbis who will coordinate organizing a Rabbis letter against the building of the Museum over Muslim graves.

We call on citizens of the world to join the campaign – raise your voices, - write to your own governments urging them to pressure the Israeli government to cease the construction of the Museum in that location.

Useful addresses and contacts:

President Marvin Hier, Dean, Wiesenthal Center
Fax: ++1-310-553-4521
email: information@wiesenthal.net

President Shimon Peres
Fax: ++972-2-567-1314
email: president@president.gov.il

Prime Minister Olmert
Fax: +972-2-670-5475
email: pmo.heb@it.pmo.gov.il

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
Fax: ++972-2-530-3367
email: sar@mfa.gov.il

Mayor of Jerusalem
Fax: ++972-2-629-6014
email: mankal@jerusalem.muni.il

Sfardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar
Fax: ++972-2-537-1305
email: rabbis@rabbinate.gov.il



Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi
Fax: ++972-2-537-7872
email: rabbia@rabbinate.gov.il

President Mahmoud Abbas
Fax: ++972-2-240-9648

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
Fax: ++972-2- 295-0970

Foreign Minister Riad Malki
Fax: ++970-2-240-3372 or ++972-2-240-3372
email: mofapal@gmail.com



The following is some factual information about the issue:

ISRAEL'S SUPREME COURT RULES CENTER FOR HUMAN DIGNITY-MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE JERUSALEM CAN BUILD ON WEST JERUSALEM SITE

The Israeli High Court of Justice has ruled that the building of the Museum is legal and the construction can continue. In February 2006 the High Court issued an injunction for freezing the construction. Since that time the Court has been considering the evidence presented for and against building the Museum. The decision of the Court places the burden on the Muslim Authorities to accept the “offers” made to them by the Wiesenthal Center to move the graves that will be affected by the building the Museum. The Muslim Authorities rejected all of the offers and claimed that the sanctity of the whole cemetery must be respected. In the initial groundbreaking and first construction some 300 skeletons were dug up and “boxed” by the Israeli Antiquities Authorities.

Furthermore, the Court rejected the claims by some experts (supported by IPCRI and others against the building of the Museum) and in favor of other experts brought by the Wiesenthal Center, that the construction of the Museum would not lead to a disruption of public order and that the Arab and Muslim world would accept the construction of the Museum as they had accepted the construction of the parking lot over part of the Museum in the mid 1960’s.




http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1225199598269&pagena...



Site for J'lem tolerance museum okayed

Oct. 29, 2008
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Islamic Movement in Israel vowed to fight a Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that a Museum of Tolerance could be built on its planned site in central Jerusalem even though it was part of the old, deconsecrated Mamila Muslim cemetery.

Work on the $250-million museum, which is being built adjacent to Independence Park by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, hit a snag three years ago when dozens of Muslim graves were found on a section of the site during the required preliminary excavations. Two years ago, a court ordered a freeze in construction.

The museum said Wednesday that construction would resume immediately.

But a showdown is expected, with the Islamic group set to announce its plans at a press conference in east Jerusalem on Thursday morning.

"All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center. "Moderation and tolerance have prevailed."

In their unanimous ruling, the justices noted that no objections had been lodged back in 1960, when the municipality put a parking lot over a small section of the graveyard, and that for the past half-century the site had been in public use.

The court said that an alternative proposal put forward by planners - including reburial of the bones or covering the graves - was "satisfactory" in trying to reconcile religious attitudes toward respecting the dead with the requirements of the law.

The court also noted that the Islamic organization that had filed the appeal, Al-Aksa Foundation, which is connected with the Islamic Movement, was declared illegal by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter earlier this year for its alleged ties with Hamas. Nevertheless, the court found, this in itself was not grounds to reject the appeal.

The court also said concerns that violence would break out if the construction went ahead were "not within the confines" of the ruling.

The decision came after seven months of arbitration failed to resolve the dispute.

An attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement broke down when Islamic officials rejected an offer by the museum to move the bones to a nearby neglected Muslim cemetery and to renovate it. The Wiesenthal Center refused to relocate the museum or to avoid construction on the small section of the site where the bones were found, saying the area was needed for the museum.

The bones, several hundred years old, were found on 12 percent of the site.

Islamic officials, who had repeatedly ruled out any construction at the site, criticized Wednesday's ruling.

"We did not expect much from the court, and it is clear that it is part of the Israeli establishment," Islamic Movement spokesman Zahi Nujidat said. "We will not give up easily."

In the past, public protests organized by the movement have turned violent.

The museum was originally expected to be completed in 2007. The Wiesenthal Center has spent millions of dollars in legal fees.

Hier said construction would take between three and three-and-a-half years.

According to the court's decision, construction can resume immediately, except for the small section where the human remains were found.

The court gave project managers 60 days to agree with the Antiquities Authority on a method for either removing any human remains for reburial or installing a barrier between the building's foundations and the ground below that would prevent graves from being disturbed.

The site was the city's main Muslim cemetery until 1948.

The Wiesenthal Center has cited rulings by Muslim courts, the most recent in 1964, that canceled the sanctity of the site because it was no longer used.

Hier said that the site, which was given to the center by the Israel Lands Administration and the Jerusalem Municipality in the '90s, had never been designated by Israeli authorities as a cemetery, and that for three decades it had been used as parking lot.

He added that throughout the Arab world, including in the Palestinian Authority, there had been extensive building on abandoned cemetery sites.

The museum construction site was dedicated with great fanfare in 2004, with top government officials and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in attendance.

The museum - which is being designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and will include a theater complex, conference center, library, gallery and lecture halls - seeks to promote unity and respect among people of all faiths.

"Jerusalem is 3,000 years old, and every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths," Hier said. "We are deeply committed to do everything in our power to respect this sacred past, but at the same time, we must allow Jerusalem to have a future."



From the Weisenthal Center Web site:



“All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision.” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center applauded today’s Israeli Supreme Court decision allowing the Frank O. Gehry-designed Center for Human Dignity - Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem (MOTJ) to be built on its planned site in the center of the city. "All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "Moderation and tolerance have prevailed. The MOTJ will be a great landmark promoting the principles of mutual respect and social responsibility." Construction on the project will resume immediately.
(cllick on above photo for hi-res image)

“Jerusalem is 3,000 years old and every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths. We are deeply committed to do everything in our power to respect that sacred past, but at the same time, we must allow Jerusalem to have a future and we are honored to be given an opportunity to be a part of that future,” Rabbi Hier concluded.

http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=fwLYKnN8Lz...





Here’s something interesting from July 2007:



Jews outraged by construction
at site of famed Vilnius cemetery
By Dinah A. Spritzer

PRAGUE (JTA) -- Jews inside and outside of Vilnius are outraged at Lithuanian officials who have allowed construction on land believed to cover part of the country's largest Jewish cemetery.

Development of the King Mindaugas apartments is the second building project in two years that authorities have allowed on the area, one of the Lithuanian capital's prime real estate sites.

The city in May reportedly agreed to an international expert committee's recommendation that construction on the site be halted and that a geophysical survey be carried out in the disputed area. But construction has continued nonetheless.

“The government is playing a game with us, saying one thing and doing another," Simon Gurevichius, executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, told JTA in a telephone interview.

Gurevichius said Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus promised the Jewish community that a second building would not go up, “and meanwhile the digging is going on at a frantic pace where we know there are Jewish bones.”

Estimates put the number of those buried at the Snipiskes Cemetery at some 10,000 over six centuries, although many bodies were removed by the Soviet regime when it controlled Lithuania. Prior to World War II, Vilnius was one of European Jewry's most vital centers of religious life and education.

The city first sold part of a vast tract of land in the city center, occupied in part by the cemetery, to a local developer in 2003. Despite complaints by the 5,000-strong Jewish community, the city in 2005 allowed the construction of an apartment complex. Gurevichius estimates that apartment prices start at $400,000.

This February, the city granted a second building permit after receiving permission from the Ministry of Culture, which has the power to stop projects that interfere with ancient sites and ruins.

Based on archival research it commissioned, the city argued that the current construction does not overlap with the cemetery grounds.

After pressure and intervention from international voices such as the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius and the American Jewish Committee, the Lithuanian Prime Minister's Office agreed in March to an expert committee of Jewish leaders, government officials and members of the historical institute that would try to resolve the boundary dispute.

The state-run Lithuanian Historical Institute declared in May that the construction area in question does encroach on the cemetery's borders, but its recommendation to stop construction has been ignored. In an apparent bureaucratic snafu that Gurevichius attributes to ill will, the city and state authorities claim they are not following the institute document because it lacks the proper signatures.

Ina Irens, chief officer of the Vilnius municipal government's international relations department, wrote JTA by e-mail that the city was aware of the controversy on the cemetery boundaries and was still waiting for the expertise from the Lithuanian Institute of History and the final document from the panel of experts.

The document in question was signed by the institute's director, Gurevichius said, but one copy lacks the signatures of the two researchers who helped him. Now he worries that in a few months, the apartment building will be completed and the city will say, "It's here now, it would just cost too much to tear it down,” Gurevichius said.

Andrew Baker, director of international relations for the American Jewish Committee, said the expert group's 10 members -- half of whom were Lithuanian -- unanimously recommended that construction be halted until further research was conducted.

Baker said he told Lithuanian officials, including the foreign minister, that "this is an unacceptable response and surely the government could do more. It is hard not to conclude that the Lithuanian government has acted in bad faith.”

While the wrangling continues in Vilnius, the London-based Committee to Protect Jewish Cemeteries in Europe is convinced that the ongoing apartment construction, according to its own research in Vilnius, is disrupting the dead, which is a violation of Jewish law.

The cemetery committee, the Conference of European Rabbis and some 100 observant Jews held a prayer vigil in front of the European Commission in Brussels last week to protest the construction.

Abraham Ginsberg, the executive director of the cemetery committee, said: “We will protest at Lithuanian embassies around Europe, and men in black hats and long beards will lay down on the site if the construction does not stop.”











Gershon Baskin and Hanna Sinoira - Co-CEOs, IPCRI



gershon@ipcri.org hanna@ipcri.org



http://www.ipcri.org



Contribute to this Campaign



Make your contribution online



http://www.ipcri.org/donate.html

or by sending a check to:



Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

P.O. Box 9321, Jerusalem 91092

Tel: +972-2-676-9460 Fax: +972-2-676-8011

Views: 73

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Steph,
I believe it is being built very near the Old City, on the main road leading to it from the North.
Basically on the line between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.
And you are correct, there is very little room in Jerusalem. Almost everything is built on top of something archaeologically valuable. It can't be helped.
This is sickly hilarious. The most American thing I can think of. Has anyone ever been to Ein Hod? It is an artists' colony in Israel that used to be a Palestinian village. The mosque is still standing, though... it has been turned into a restaurant.
Is it (Ein Hod) in Israel proper or in the Palestinian territories?
Thank you for sharing that Hannah. I never knew about it.
Do the artists that live there know that where they are living in is a former Palestinian village?
They know, and the people of Ein Hod are living in an Ein CHOD which has no direct road (when I visted there 6 years ago) but near the village.

But let us not get into Blame Game, the situation is complex as it is.
This call is specific address the case of the Museum of Tolerance and respecting the Muslim people.
It seems like the whole world is going mad - with Israel as the epicentre.

What happened to "the Jewish people being the light onto the nations"? What happened to Rabbi Hillel's famous quote: "The Torah is about how we treat our fellow human beings; the rest is commentary"

It saddens me. The quote: "You reap what you sow" will hit all of us....
Dear Stephanie: Ein Hod is in the Galilee and is one of 500+ towns and villages ethnically cleansed when Israel was founded between November 1947-May 1950.

Tinkie: You are exactly right on some things. But I do not think the whole world is gone mad. I think many Israelis do see taht other countries do not live in perpetual conflict. I think the trick is challenging them to think. The Zionist PR machine is strong in convincing them that it is because of Anti-Semitism and perpetual victimization of Jews that they have to live in perpetual conflict zones. That is what is sad.
Hello Mazin,
I'm always interested in your comments. I read them all the time...
But, if it wasn't Anti-Semitism that has made it a hard road for Jews in that past, what was it? This is an honest question, not a challenge :)

Melissa
The problem is that chauvenistic ethnocentric european nationalism is a European phenomenon taht resulted in discrimination against minorities in the past (including Jews, gypsis etc). A correct reading of the genesis and origin of these things is important because the response can be very different. For example here are two responses that are very different:
1) By socialist Jews (the Bund): fight for equality, for joint systems of living, and for human rights
2) By political Zionists: mimic the chauvenistic nationalist sytems of 19th century Europe and create one for "our" own.

THe outcomes of these two very different philosophies are ofcourse very different. Only after 200 years when history is settled, will humanity have a consensus on these things. But for the native Palestinians the course of political Zionism clearly had a catastrophic outcome for their societies (hence we call it Nakba).

The only other note I would like to make is that every people think their histories are unique and "special" but I believe it is truly sad when a society thinks of itself as perpetually persecuted/victimized especially when this society has the highest standard of living and has access to most of the wealth and power in the world. It is sad because it becomes hard to even enjoy teh fruits of the work when you are looking over your shoulders all the time. Why not just live together, learn to transcend the fears by love. At a personal level you can't make friends if you always imagine the other person a monster. Each of us has bad and good sides so befriend the good side, nurture it, make it grow both in yourself and in your neighbors and in your imagined enemies. I think taht is what Jesus meant when he preached love your enemies for if you only love those who live you then what good are you.
Hi Mazin,

You wrote that: I think many Israelis do see that other countries do not live in perpetual conflict.

I think that ALL Israelis "see that other countries do not live in perpetual conflict."

I think that ALL Israelis DO NOT WANT TO "not live in perpetual conflict."

I am puzzled why YOU SEEM TO want opine here, Mazin, that any Israelis think otherwise. And that, as you wrote is "what is sad". Very sad indeed.
Thank you Mazin for the info!
I was reading how a lot of the Palestinians that lived there, when the fled in 1948, ended up in a refugee camp in Jenin.
It's very helpful.
One thing that I would really be interested in is finding out which villages got demolished in Israel proper and what towns/buildings/places are there today. Do you know of any documents that show which villages are not Israeli towns?
The best source of that information on the internet (including on Ein Hod) is at a website taht lists all towns and villages by district with detailed history, photos (pasty and present), oral and other histories etc. It is at http://palestineremembered.com

In encoiurage everyone to look at that. It also has a section called "Zionist Frequently Asked Questions" which answwers questions usually posted by people on this form of general nature.
Yes, Mazin.
But I do think Zionism has taken a different turn. I am not an anti Zionist. I hope that Israel will remain Israel.
I do, however, have a problem with a certain "right-wing corporate" entity whom have taken control. Please read my discussion where I post an article written by Gadi Algazi.
Regular people are manipulated into hating each other, while the group that caused (and are still causing) the problems are sipping champagne in their castles in Switzerland, enjoying the profits made from building huge housing complexes on the West Bank. The people living there cannot really be blamed. They came to live there because of the opportunity to live in a nice affordable house. From there on thing led to another, and we all know the story.
Meanwhile those guys who built the housing complexes, AND, of course, the government at the time (Bibi) who was profiting as well, will not bear responsibility. We, the people, will.........

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