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30 November

| 2011 | 00:00

Summary of Panel Discussion: The Museum of Tolerance and the Muslim Cemetery in Mamilla

  • Free
  • Public
  • Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, Radak 20, Jerusalem
  • Free
  • Public
  • Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, Radak 20, Jerusalem
Summary of Panel Discussion: The Museum of Tolerance and the Muslim Cemetery in Mamilla
On Wednesday November 30th 2011, The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research held a symposium in honor of the publication of the book: “Allah’s Safe Haven? The Controversy Surrounding the Mamilla Cemetery and the Museum of Tolerance – Contesting Domination over the Symbolic and Physical Landscapes” By Prof. Yitzhak Reiter, published by the Jerusalem Institute.
 
Prof. Yitzhak Reiter, from the Jerusalem Institute and the Ashkelon Academic College described the origin of the conflict that arose regarding the creation of the Museum of Tolerance and analyzed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter while alluding to matters that were mentioned in the ruling including the claim of a double standard policy regarding Jewish cemeteries, the matter of the exact location of the historical Mamilla cemetery, the claim of the delay in submitting the petition as well as previous permits by Muslim religious authorities to build on cemeteries.
 
Prof. Reiter concluded that the court is not the appropriate setting for this kind of conflict resolution since it only postpones matters when they reach a life threatening stage but it doesn’t solve them. He also expressed his apprehension at this issue being dealt with by the international community. Prof Reiter called for the establishment of an interreligious body supported by the state, which will represent the different religious and cultural sectors and will serve as mediator and help avoid repetitions of situations resembling the abovementioned conflict.
 
Prof. Yehoshua Porath of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem claimed that the entire issue is not a religious one rather a political one and that in similar situations that occurred internationally, solutions were found with religious approval but in this case, there is no desire to reach such a solution. He mentioned that the construction of a parking lot on the exact same site many years ago never caused an uproar or controversy and cannot understand why building a museum is any different. Prof. Porath stated that he views this issue as part of ongoing efforts on behalf of religious zealots, both Jewish and Muslim, to enforce religious norms on society.
 
Prof. Rassem Khamaisi, of the University of Haifa, presented the situation as part of an ongoing process of change and “Judaization” of the Israeli scenery and as an attempt by the state to appropriate the space and to encourage forgetfulness regarding its history. He claimed there has been an attempt to divert the dialogue to an attack on the protesters. He suggested building the museum at other available sites in Jerusalem and encouraged the state to act in a way that will lessen tensions and protect minority rights.
 
Dr. Shmuel Berkovitch, attorney and legal expert on Jerusalem and holy sites, quoted Muslim legal scholars permitting removal of remnants of cemeteries for the purpose of construction on those sites and claimed that during the era of the British Mandate, a proposal for construction on this same site was approved and consequently, part of the holiness of the site has already been removed by Muslim clerics. He presented the controversy as being imbued with a national and political agenda led by the Al Aqsa Association and Raed Salah. Dr. Berkovitch concluded by stating that all the facts have been presented to the Supreme Court and its verdict should be respected.
 
Prof. Yehoshua Ben-Arieh of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem discussed the history of the Muslim cemetery in Mamilla and claimed that when the cemetery was bounded by clear borders in the 19th century and until the 60’s in the 20th century, the cemetery was never harmed and the assigned border was not crossed. He went on to strongly criticize the plan for building the Museum of Tolerance and warned of the construction creating a new Muslim myth that will harm the state of Israel. According to him the location developed into a holy Muslim site and building there will harm the collective memory of the Muslims and will create a harmful mark in the history of the state of Israel that will be hard to erase.
 
Click here to view pictures of the event.