Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 11:44 am (KSA) 08:44 am (GMT)

US architect abandons Jerusalem Museum project

Leading U.S. architect Frank Gehry reportedly withdrew from a plan to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem
Leading U.S. architect Frank Gehry reportedly withdrew from a plan to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem

After a long time of protests and failed legal battles, leading U.S. architect Frank O. Gehry pulled out from the Museum of Tolerance project in Jerusalem, which its opponents say is being built over an ancient Muslim graveyard, According to media reports on Friday.

Gehry stepped down over planning and financial disagreements for the museum which is being built by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

 There is something profoundly disturbing about the idea of putting a Jewish Museum of Tolerance on a plot of land where Muslims have been burying their dead for most of the last 800 years 
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism

But Gehry's decision to step down came as opposition voices to the project grew inside and outside the Jewish state.

Israeli social activists and prominent orthodox Jewish leaders, including Knesset member Rabbi Meir Porush and American Rabbis, have strongly opposed the construction of the museum.

Along with a group of British architects, they signed a petition calling the proposed museum a “blow to peaceful co-existence” in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s former deputy mayor, Meron Benvenisti, has denounced it as “so hallucinatory, so irrelevant, so foreign, so megalomaniac,” according the U.S. Jewish publication Tablet Magazine.

Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, vehemently fought against the project saying it would desecrate the Mamilla Cemetery where ancestors of Jerusalem Arab families were buried.

Israel's Supreme Court initially halted construction but gave the green light after rejecting appeals in October 2008 by Salah organizations.

In their decision, the justices pointed out no objections had been lodged in 1960 when the municipality put a parking lot over part of the graveyard.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, an umbrella group representing some 1,500 Reform rabbis, urged the Wiesenthal Center to find an alternative location to the three-acre site in downtown Western Jerusalem.

“There is something profoundly disturbing about the idea of putting a Jewish Museum of Tolerance on a plot of land where Muslims have been burying their dead for most of the last 800 years,” Wrote Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

“I have great respect for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and I would like to see its museum built — somewhere else in Jerusalem.”

(Written by Mustapha Ajbaili)

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