Emek Shaveh and Residents of Hebron Have Submitted an Objection to the Construction of an Elevator for Persons with Disabilities at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron
The grounds for the objections: The plan was illegally approved by a transitional government; The plan is in contravention of international agreements to which Israel is a signatory; This is an unprecedented injury to the character of the ancient structure; No documentation and preservation file has been submitted; Kamal Abadin, a Palestinian with a disability, objects to the plan: “If Israel wants to make the structure accessible to the disabled, it should first enable me to come to prayers at the complex in a car.”
On June 18, Emek Shaveh, together with the Palestinian residents of Hebron, submitted an objection to the granting of a permit for the construction of an elevator at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a plan that purports to have the humanitarian objective of making the site accessible to persons with disabilities but which, in reality, promotes unilateral changes at a site that is the subject of deep political controversy.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the most impressive and significant structure in the city of Hebron and in the entire West Bank. It includes remains that have been preserved since the first century BCE – from the days of King Herod. The complex has undergone changes over the various historical periods.
For the past two decades, the settlers have been trying to promote the plan to construct an elevator at the heart of the complex, without success. On the eve of the establishment of Israel’s 35th government, just a few days before Naftali Bennett left his position as Minister of Defense, he signed the permit for the construction of the elevator for the disabled at the Tomb of the Patriarchs despite the fact that any construction at the site is under the authority of the Hebron municipality and the land with its structures belongs to the Islamic Waqf.
Three years ago, UNESCO designated the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a World Heritage Site in Palestine, and therefore, if the changes are indeed carried out, they will not only harm the historical character of the site, but will also constitute a violation by Israel of the Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage sites, to which it is a signatory.
The planned elevator will be a massive structure that will be completely out of character with the ancient structure. Not only is it a modern structure that does not resonate with its surroundings, it will also conceal parts of the historical structure. Despite the fact that the Tomb of the Patriarchs is an ancient and unique structure from archaeological, religious and cultural perspectives and, perhaps most importantly, it is the most significant structure of its kind in the West Bank – the documents submitted with the plan do not include a documentation and preservation file nor the opinion and approval of the Civil Administration’s Staff Office for Archaeology, as required for every plan for building on any ancient site.
Kamal Hairi Abadin, a resident of Hebron who was injured during the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, and sustained a permanent disability, signed the objection: “I almost do not come to pray at the mosque because as a Palestinian, I am not permitted to drive in my car from my house to the site, because the road is closed to Palestinian vehicles. If Israel asserts that it wants to make the site accessible to the disabled, let it start with allowing disabled Palestinians to access it by car.”
Emek Shaveh: Unfortunately, even at the price of damage to a structure more than 2,000 years old that is holy to Judaism and Islam, Israel is prepared to be led by the settlers and their plans, and on the way, to violate international agreements to which it is a signatory. The settlers have succeeded in turning the needs of persons with disabilities into a political issue and a means for deepening the dispute with the Palestinians. We all know that what begins in Hebron does not stay only in Hebron and the unilateral steps at the Tomb of the Patriarchs could serve as a precedent for unilateral actions at another site which is holy to both Judaism and Islam.