(photo credit: Simon Wiesenthal Center)
The chief rabbi of Haifa has reversed his opinion and lifted his opposition to the site of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.
During a conference of imams and rabbis held last month in Spain, Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen signed a petition together with a group of Muslim and Jewish religious leaders against the construction of the museum on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem. Then, Cohen wrote in a letter April 2 to Kadi Ahmed Natour, president of the Supreme Muslim Religious Court in Israel and initiator of the petition, that he had been misinformed about the history of the site in question.
In the two-page letter, which was made public on Tuesday, Cohen stated that he was "astounded" to learn from the initiators of the museum that the site in question had been designated for use by the Supreme Muslim Council for building an Islamic university and that the site has been used as a parking lot for the past three decades.
The construction of the multimillion-dollar museum hit a snag last year after dozens of Muslim graves were found on a section of the museum's planned central Jerusalem site. The site, adjacent to the city's Independence Park, served as the main Muslim cemetery until 1948.
In February, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary order barring construction on the site in reaction to Arab objections and appointed former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar to mediate the dispute.
"I and my colleagues," wrote Cohen, "would never have signed a petition in connection with an issue that is the subject of legal proceedings and therefore sub judice." The letter concluded, "We have full trust in the Supreme Courts [sic] of Israel and have no doubt it will do justice to this issue and protect all holy sites in Israel regardless of creed, faith or religion."