mt olives cemetery 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Right-wing activists are condemning the Jerusalem Municipality for failing to
stop the illegal expansion of a controversial mosque in the Mount of Olives
cemetery that has tripled in size since last fall.
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The mosque, located
next to the rotary at the main entrance of the Ras el-Amud neighborhood, was
built in the 1950s, when Jordan controlled the area.
But starting in
October, Arab residents built two extensions, of roughly 100 square meters each.
Workers would bring in the materials during the week in batches, and then
complete the work quickly on Friday night and Saturday, said Jeff Daube, a
member of the Israel Steering Committee of the International Committee for the
Preservation of Har HaZeitim and the director of the Israel office of the
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
A municipality spokeswoman said
that there was a stop-work order placed on the mosque, and that the municipality
was pursuing various legal avenues with the attorney-general in order to stop
the illegal construction.
There are between 20,000 to 30,000 illegal
structures in east Jerusalem. Arab residents say that building permits are
impossible to obtain from the municipality, and they are forced to build
“I understand the Arabs here,” said Arieh King, the director
of the conservative Israel Land Fund. “They see there’s no law, there’s no
rules, there’s no justice, everyone does what they want,” he said.
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who lives in the Jewish complex of Ma’aleh Hazeitim inside of Ras el- Amud,
added that he sent photos of ongoing construction on a daily basis to city
councilors and the mayor.
King, Daube and other activists were concerned
by the mosque’s expansion in such a sensitive area.
“There has been a
tremendous amount of illegal building by Arabs around sides of cemeteries,” said
“Because of where it is, it is the most blatant manifestation of
that kind of illegal building. Also, what concerns me is the proximity to some
prominent graves, including [Former Prime Minister] Menahem Begin and Rav Kook,
which are just 5 meters away.”
Two weeks ago, King and Daube organized
for a guard to sit in a car outside of the mosque on Friday night and notify the
police when he saw construction.
Late in the evening, a cement truck came
to pour the roof for the new extension. The guard called the police, who didn’t
arrive for 40 minutes. By the time the police arrived, the roof was
King expressed anger with the mayor that he had put a stop-work
order rather than a demolition order on the extensions.
“When it comes to
buildings from all of the religions – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim – the
municipality acts with sensitivity according to orderly procedures from the
government’s legal advisor,” said the spokeswoman.
The Mount of Olives
cemetery has been used as a Jewish and Muslim cemetery for more than 3,000 years
and holds approximately 150,000 graves.
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