Thursday, June 07, 2012

Way Is Now Clear For Wiesenthal Center's Museum Of Tolerance In Jerusalem

Yesterday, The Israeli Supreme Court has given the Simon Wiesenthal Center the go-ahead to build the Museum of Tolerance in downtown Jerusalem--this after a long and protracted fight in court:
[T]he High Court of Justice ruled in favor of the project after a lengthy legal battle with Muslim groups, unanimously rejecting petitions against it. Then, last Thursday, the Jerusalem City Council approved the contract, after which the mayor personally telephoned the Los-Angeles based Hier to tell him the good news.

“We got a call from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat after the city council voted to say that the deal is done,” Hier said in an interview at the King David Hotel on Tuesday. “Construction is now under way, and we are hoping to open in three years’ time, if there are no further delays.”

The museum’s location adjacent to a 12th-century Mamluke cemetery has angered some Muslim leaders, including Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. But their petitions to the High Court against the museum were rejected unanimously by the court, which even slapped a fine of NIS 75,000 on them for wasting the court’s time.
The bottom line was that the argument put forth by the Muslim leaders, claiming that the land on which the Wiesenthal Center was going to build the museum was somehow holy as the site of a Muslim cemetary--was clearly just not true:
“For 50 years, the site served as the municipality’s car park. Muslims, Jews and Christians parked their cars there every day since the 1960s. Do you think that Muslims would park their cars there every day if they thought it was a sacred cemetery?” Hier asked.

“The Supreme Court ruled that the Muslim community for 50 years has not regarded this as a cemetery. That was their ruling. The court found no documents in any of the ministries, no letters, nothing objecting to the municipality having constructed a parking lot on this site. Now either Houdini made the documents disappear, or they never existed.”

Asked about the morality of building a museum near a Muslim cemetery, Hier responded emphatically: “All the Muslim graves have been removed; they’ve gone. The site has been clean for more than a year. Let me make clear that the land was given to us by the government and the municipality. The Wiesenthal Center didn’t come and choose this land. You assume that it’s a legitimate thing.”
With this major hurdle out of the way, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, expects that the way is now clear for the Museum of Tolerance to be finished in 3 years.

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