Two weeks after a suit was filed in the Supreme Court asking that empty Arab graves alongside the Temple Mount be filled with dirt, nothing has yet been done.
Dr. Shmuel Berkowitz, a member of the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Temple Mount Artifacts, says that the police fears of Arab violence in response to firm action have been proven to be untrue.
Berkowitz explained to Arutz-7’s Hebrew newsmagazine that four years ago, at the initiative of Jerusalem activist Aryeh King, a suit was filed demanding that the police enforce the law and stop Arabs from burying their dead just outside the Temple Mount. The land in question is owned by the Jerusalem municipality, is earmarked for a national park, and those involved in systematically taking over the land were in violation of several laws, Berkowitz said.
“The police claimed at the time that they could not take action,” Berkowitz explained, “because they feared Arab riots and unrest. At one point, in August 2006, then-Public Security Minister Avi Dichter [of the Kadima party] took the unusual step of rejecting this position and ordered the police to take action. The police fulfilled the order, and in fact no riots occurred, and no burials have taken place since.”
The problem that remains, Berkowitz said, “is that about 30 graves remain there – open and waiting. The Arabs are liable to come there at night and bury their dead, and we will have thus lost the area. We have asked the police and the municipality to fill in the graves and reclaim the area, but now they have a new claim – that the area is ‘sensitive’ – and nothing has been done.”
Two weeks ago, the Committee, on which Berkowitz is a member, filed a suit on the matter in the Supreme Court, asking that the police formulate a timetable for filling in the graves and preparing the area for the designated national park.
Asked if he fears that the court might take a year or two to decide, Berkowitz said that though every day is in fact critical, he is confident that the justices will decide within a matter of weeks. The three-judge Supreme Court forum hearing the case is headed by Justice Edmond Levy.
Over the years, the Arabs have taken over much of the area east and south of the Temple Mount, including turning it into a cemetery. The area contains archaeological remains from the periods of King Herod and the Hashmonaim, and “we are very concerned that we could lose it,” Berkowitz said.
About a year ago, the police and National Parks Authority finally did take some action, Berkowitz recalled: “They filled in 19 of the 50 open graves, and spread earth around an area of some 200 square meters - out of a total of 2,000 that we’re struggling to save - with a metal net underneath to prevent burial. This progress proves that there is no problem with enforcing the law and turning this city-owned land into a national park. The problem is that now the police have come with another claim – that the area is ‘sensitive’ and that therefore they can take no further action. We demand that the police stop giving such excuses, and enforce the law as they are supposed to do.”