New INPA works at Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery raise tension around the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif
This morning inspectors of the NPA (Nature and Parks Authority), accompanied by security personnel, began fencing the cemetery Bab al-Rahmeh, adjacent to the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif. We understand these works as continuing the trend to limit the non-Jewish presence around the holy compound, and part of a long struggle between settlers and Palestinians over control of the eastern wall of the esplanade. Emek Shaveh contacted the legal office of the NPA demanding the work cease.
Background: The cemetery Bab al-Rahmeh runs along the eastern side of the Haram al-Sharif (see attached map). It is the second most important Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem, after Mamilla, and unlike the latter it is still active. The struggle over the character and control of the cemetery is over a decade old. The Public Committee against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount comprises archaeologists, scholars and lawyers. In 2005, the Committee petitioned the High Court against the State of Israel for its failure to enforce the ban on burials in the southern part of the cemetery. The claim is that the area is a proclaimed antiquities site that is part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, and that digging and burial are damaging to the antiquities.
While Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery is included in the Jerusalem Walls National Park, the Christian and Jewish cemeteries on the Mount of Olives are not. The Muslim cemetery’s inclusion within the park’s borders now enables the NPA to operate in the cemetery under the National Parks Act, to fence it in, restrict access to it, and to strive to stop burial there. All this is done in the claim of protecting ancient remains.
The NPA’s works that began today (16 August 2015) were done in the north section of the cemetery, across the blocked Golden Gate. The NPA erected a fence that prevents further burial to the east, aiming to prevent the expansion of the cemetery which would hurt the national park. In our opinion, this is another step designed to prevent Muslim presence around the walls of the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif.
In response to the works today, Emek Shaveh contacted the legal department of the NPA, asking whether the work is coordinated with the Israel Antiquities Authority. If not, the concern is that the NPA itself is harming the antiques. The works likewise breach the delicate status quo between the Israeli authorities and Palestinians regarding the perimeter around the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif.
For more information about the cemetery of Bab al-Rahmeh click here.
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