Strange bedfellows

Left-wingers and haredim have teamed up to try to prevent a new Magistrate’s Court being built on a Muslim grave site

The Museum of Tolerance site 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Museum of Tolerance site 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In the struggle led by some of the city’s left-wing figures against the Museum of Tolerance being built on a Muslim graveyard, some unexpected supporters have recently joined the fray. The site in question is located below the Mamilla Mall, through the Mamilla pool, Rehov Hillel and part of Independence Park. So far, the struggle has not resulted in anyone’s withdrawing from the project, and even the departure of renowned architect Frank Gehry from the project didn’t put an end to it. Although the representatives of the left-wing organizations opposed to the project have been voicing their opposition, all agree that there is no chance of preventing its completion.
However, a new factor has recently come to the fore. An old plan to build the new Magistrate Court’s near the museum has been put back on the table by the Treasury. The plan, which was first approved in 2002, in the same zoning area as the museum, had not been implemented due to lack of funds. But recently the Treasury has managed to find the necessary sums, and it wants to resume the work.
Meanwhile, Judge Dorit Beinisch sent a letter to Mayor Nir Barkat inquiring about Muslim graves that had been found in the area, as published in the media. Upon receiving a positive answer (thousands of graves were found in four excavations in the area), Beinisch announced that in that case, she was withdrawing from the project, refusing to have the court built on the site of a graveyard.
But now that the Treasury has decided to resume the work, explaining that “too much public money had already been invested in the project,” Beinisch has not voiced any further opposition.
In the meantime, the members of Meretz on the city council, who are among the fiercest opponents of building on the grave site, have also resumed their struggle.
Their feeling is that while the struggle against the Museum of Tolerance seems to be a lost cause, their chances of preventing the construction of the Magistrate’s Court are much better, as nothing concrete has yet been done on the site.
But the Meretz members soon realized that they needed some serious psychological, physical and logistical support. Now, as every child in this country knows, when it comes to opposing the desecration of graves, no one can come close to the efficiency of the haredim. Believe it or not, two of the Meretz members on the city council – former deputy mayor Pepe Alalu and Meir Margalit – managed to gain as allies two prominent members of the haredi party – Yossi Deitsch (United Torah Judaism) and Shmuel Yitzhaki (Shas). And not too long after that, they corralled almost all the members of the two parties, who are all members of the coalition.
“It’s not that the time for the Messiah has come,” admits Margalit, “but, nevertheless, we have a shared goal. This is a coalition against the desecration of graves – Muslim graves in this case. And whoever believes, like us, that this shouldn’t happen in Jerusalem under our sovereignty, is our partner,” he explains.
A quick inquiry with the new partners of the most radical leftists at city hall revealed that harmony does indeed dwell in this part of the city. City council member Yossi Deitsch confirmed that the two groups were working as a team and added that “This is far from being the only issue on which we agree and work together.”
Among the other issues Deitsch and Margalit mentioned is their mutual concern about decent school conditions for specific communities – the haredim and the Arabs. Deitsch and his UTJ peers are trying to obtain better facilities and more funding, while Margalit and his Meretz mates are working hard to improve the conditions of the schools in the Arab sector.
Considering that in the last election campaign Meretz’s slogan was a rather hysterical “Stop the haredi hegemony before it’s too late,” it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand why this journalist was a little bit… surprised.
We must be close to messianic times. The alternative – such as some wisdom or common sense – seems far too improbable.