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Haredi Rally for Muslim Graveyard?

What do people think of this story? Haredim demand respect for Muslim grave site, and demand the contractor to pour a layer of concrete before they start building. Is it enough to pour concrete before they build or should it be left untouched? This also brings up the case of the Simon Wiesenthal Center which is building a “Museum of tolerance” over an ancient and historic Muslim graveyard.

Contractor bows to Haredi pressure to protect Muslim gravesite

by Yuval Azoulay

In the face of pressure from ultra-Orthodox activists, a contractor in Yavne has agreed to pour a layer of concrete at his own expense – one million shekels – before constructing a building on a suspected gravesite.

The ultra-Orthodox protesters, who speak out against such projects on religious grounds, were apparently unphased by the fact that the graves in question appear to be Islamic tombs dating to the seventh century.

The project consists of two eight-story apartment buildings.

When construction of the first one began some years ago, builders discovered ancient tombs and ritual objects, which they carefully brought to the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. Some of the tombs were relocated and thereafter the building was completed with little incident.

When contractor Yossi Vaknin purchased the rights for the second part of the plan, he found himself facing the ultra-Orthodox organization “Atra Kadisha” (“Holy Sites” ), which threatened to cause a scandal because of the tombs found under the first building.

“We don’t care if these are Jews, Muslims or Christians,” Atra Kadisha activist Arahle Yekter told Haaretz. “A tomb is like a home. The dead person purchased the land in which he will lie for his eternal rest, and this rest must never be interrupted in any way.”

On Tuesday, the Antiquities Authority had planned to commence its routine procedure of rescuing valuable archeological artifacts before allowing a new building to be constructed. That same day, dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters were bused from Jerusalem to Yavne. The archeologists never arrived, but the site has clearly been designated as a new contested area.

A welcomed promise

Atra Kadisha and other ultra-Orthodox activists stressed this week that the disagreement could blow up into a genuine crisis.

“We have thousands of people who can leave Jerusalem and Kiryat Sefer on tens of buses if the Antiquities Authority decides to excavate the site,” Yekter said.

Sources close to the dispute told Haaretz that Vaknin had been aware there was a risk of finding tombs on the site when he purchased the construction rights for the project. They said that after some negotiations, the contractor agreed not to dig a foundation for the building and instead pour a concrete “bed” on which the building would be constructed.

The contractor’s promise was welcomed by the ultra-Orthodox, who felt reassured that no deceased seventh-century Muslim will be disturbed by the building project. Vaknin, who describes himself as an observant man, will cover the cost of the concrete bed – estimated at NIS 1 million.

The Antiquities Authority said this week that they were not aware of the arrangement, but welcomed it. “If there is such an understanding, we’re only waiting for a commitment from the contractor to build the concrete layer, which will spare us the need to do any rescue digs,” the authority’s Tel Aviv district director said. “We’re interested in antiquities, not fights.”

Vaknin – about to pay out a million shekels to honor non-Jews nobody knows who have been dead for over 1,300 years – said he had a simple hope: “Having honored Atra Kadisha, I only expect one thing – for this to end quickly and amicably.”

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  • Khalil

    Just stumbled upon this. Of course, it’s a tragedy that a cultural legacy, which survived a millenia of wars, social unrest and the hands of nature, will simply be paved over. Compassionate are these people who stood up for- if not a just solution- a respectable solution. Jews and Palestinian Arabs share many values and traditions. Their history is a collective history. Palestinians and Jews are genetically closer to each other than Jews are to Europeans or Palestinians are to other Arab peoples. The tragedy of Israel and Palestine is the political lens through which each views the other as “other.” This dichotomy, like the infamous “security wall,” is artificial. But millions of dollars in propoganda have fortified this artifice into an imposing barrier to peace.

  • Shema

    Yea thanks alot..pour some cement and then carry on with your important complex so that the “chosen” people can live large. Real justice would be to save this site. I mean a seventh century grave yard for crying out loud!!!!! that has “sacred” written all over it. And for those who think themselves too intellectual to believe in sacredness then fine, that has historical significance and opportunities for research, that I’m sure many scholars and archaeologists are just itching to get the opportunity to visit. I think these Orthodox people did a good job of being strong in the beginning but fell to the first compromise they could get. If these were Jewish graves then there would absolutely be no building and I’m sure they would have found some extra will power being that their ancestors were being affected. Thanks a lot. This is just a cover up of proof that Muslims and Palestinians have lived there for centuries, crushing the lie that Palestine was an “empty land.” And where are the Muslims on this issue? writing on posts that no one will read because we have absolutely lost all power to save our own sacred sites. People wake up!!! this should make you feel ashamed.

  • Schmorgus

    Great point Lena.

  • Lena Rose

    It is commendable that these activists worked so hard to see that graves are respected, regardless of the religion of the people buried: “We don’t care if these are Jews, Muslims or Christians,” Atra Kadisha activist Arahle Yekter told Haaretz. “A tomb is like a home. The dead person purchased the land in which he will lie for his eternal rest, and this rest must never be interrupted in any way.”

    However, I find it ironic that the same standard is not held for the homes of LIVING people. Do “thousands of people” bus in from Jerusalem when the Israeli government confiscates, bulldozes or builds on top of the homes of living people?

    I truly appreciate the effort to protect the graves of people (in this case Muslims), but true respect (or just plain justice) can’t be selective.

  • Mossizzle

    Now the ultra-orthodox who are normally branded extremists and fanatics are the ones kindest to Muslims.

    Whilst seculars commit horrible crimes against Palestinian dead bodies.

    I’m not sure if you guys heard about this:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/21/israeli-pathologists-harvested-organs

  • Ryan

    wow. I’m kind of impressed

  • http://www.facebook.com/britpak Mohammed Abbasi

    Beautiful news story – many thanks for this

  • Les

    @Dizz

    All sane people know the Palestinian Arabs are the true indigenous people of the land of Palestine, not the Zionist nuts from Brooklyn and Kiev who think they have a land grant from God.

  • Jack

    I think that it’s great! It’s so nice when we can see past the lines we draw in the sand and just have some respect for each other.

  • Abdullah
  • http://www.whyislam.org Beautiful Muslim Doll

    That was considerate. Thanks and credit given when due. Many thanks and God bless you all.

    For people who are always ready to bash the religious ortodox as out of touch extremists, this should serve as a morality lesson.

  • TYO

    Nice story

  • Dizz

    Perhaps that is proof that Muslims were there over 1,300 years ago. These “fakestinians” ,as Scamela Geller calls them, have a legitimate claim to the land as their ancestors used to live there.

    European settlers lived in America for about 300 years before it became their country. Arabs living in Israel for 1,300 years still have no proper state to call their own.

  • Abdulmajid

    Wow, who would ever have believed that? Thank you, guys!

  • mindy1

    I hope we can find a compromise to this

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