Barak's Muslim Quarter visit irks Left

Defense minister attends dedication of new Torah scroll at Ohel Yitzhak synagogue near Western Wall.

barak synagogue old city 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
barak synagogue old city 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Peace Now attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak Monday for endorsing a Jewish building in a Muslim area of east Jerusalem in the face of US and international opposition. Barak attended the dedication of a new Torah scroll at the Ohel Yitzhak synagogue in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City on Sunday. The synagogue site was acquired in 1994 by a foundation backed by US bingo mogul Irving Moskowitz and the building opened last year. A synagogue was first erected at the site in 1867 but was abandoned during anti-Jewish rioting in 1936. It is close to the Western Wall and the Jewish quarter. A Peace Now statement Monday accused Barak of seeking to curry favor with the Right with his visit, while abandoning his own constituency. "The Labor chairman should condemn destructive actions such as that of Moskowitz in east Jerusalem and fight the rightist organizations," it said. Barak's office said in reply that he had believed the synagogue to be part of the Western Wall complex of prayer sites and tunnels and had been unaware of Moskowitz's involvement. He attended in his role of defense minister as the Torah scroll had been donated by a prominent supporter of a soldiers' welfare association. "The Defense Minister does not need to apologize for going to a ceremony dedicating a Torah scroll at a synagogue built by Jews 142 years ago," it said in a statement. Moskowitz is behind other Jewish projects in east Jerusalem including a plan to build 20 apartments on the site of the abandoned Shepherd's Hotel, which he bought in 1985. The project has angered the Obama administration, which voiced its concerns to Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren last month. staff contributed to this report