Museum of Tolerance construction 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Eighty-four international archeologists from well-known institutions sent a
letter to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat denouncing the city’s Simon Wiesenthal
Museum of Tolerance in a widely published letter last week.
The Museum of
Tolerance has created much debate because Arab leaders said its site, opposite
Independence Park, is a Muslim cemetery from the 12th century.
was signed by professors and archeologists from Yale University, the University
of Cambridge, Tel Aviv University, the University of Chicago and the American
University of Beirut, among others.
“Not only are we opposed to building
on such massive and revered sites in any context, but we are also concerned by
the surreptitious and unscientific removal of hundreds of human burials, in
violation of international and domestic laws and the ethical obligations of
archeologists,” the letter stated.
“Such insensitivity towards religious
rites, towards cultural, national and religious patrimony, and towards families
whose ancestors lay buried there causes grave concern from a scientific and
After more than a decade of sitting empty in
downtown Jerusalem, the museum received final approval for its new campus on
The building permit, from the Interior Ministry’s District
Planning and Construction Committee, means work can begin on the site
The Jerusalem Municipality dismissed the letter, which is
the latest in a series of efforts by activists to stop the construction of the
“The issue of the Museum of Tolerance has passed all legal
procedures and court hearings in Israel, including the High Court of Justice,
which ruled on the issue and approved the establishment of a museum, a ruling
that lead to the conclusion of legal proceedings and planning,” a municipal
The letter, which was also sent to the board members of
the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Antiquities Authority, also slammed the
excavations technique, which they accused of being “hurried.” The Antiquities
Authority refused to comment on the letter.
Prof. Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University is leading a group of 60 Muslim
families with relatives buried in the cemetery to halt the
The Wiesenthal Center was engaged in a four-year legal
battle over the location with Arab activists. The Supreme Court eventually ruled
in favor of the State of Israel, which gave the land to the museum.
Museum of Tolerance will include an amphitheater, exhibit halls, classrooms, a
stone plaza and a parking lot. As part of the project, the Wiesenthal Center
will also renovate Chatulot Square.