Daily Israel Report

Report: Vatican Will Gain More Control Over King David's Tomb

Israel may not transfer the site to the Vatican outright, but it might allow more Christian control over the site. Is this a slippery slope?
By Shimon Cohen, Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 5/14/2014, 8:51 PM / Last Update: 5/14/2014, 9:34 PM

Statue of King David, King David's Tomb
Statue of King David, King David's Tomb
Flash 90

Israel's envoy to the Vatican denied Wednesday that there is a deal in the works to transfer the ownership of King David's Tomb to the Church. 

But Rabbi Yaakov Sevilla, an activist for King David's Tomb who has told Arutz Sheva previously that there is such a deal at play, insisted once against Wednesday that a deal is in the works - one which gives the Church more control over the site. 

Rabbi Sevilla was asked to open a room at the complex recently, ahead of a conference with Tourism Minister Uzi Landau and other officials over Pope Francis's upcoming visit. The Holy See is already scheduled to hold Mass at the site during the two-day visit, in the Cenacle, or room alleged to be the site of Jesus's Last Supper, one floor above King David's Tomb. 

Rabbi Sevilla opened the door and was shocked to allow multiple staffs into the room, including several representatives from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Ministry of Tourism, security forces, and the Jerusalem municipality. Sevilla sat in the corner of the room to listen in on the hearing. 

Several security members at the hearing asked him to leave, he alleged, but he managed to stay despite the pressure. The hearing discussed "clearing the air" before the Papal visit, which continues to be a source of media fascination and controversy. 

To do this, Rabbi Sevilla said, the State has decided to extend the numbers of days per year that Christians can pray at the Cenacle. Currently, Catholic worshippers are allowed to hold Mass at the site one day per year. However, according to the Rabbi, the State intends to extend this to sixty. 

Rabbi Sevilla objected to the measure, saying that the move could change the religious "status quo" of the site. All present at the hearing, however, insisted that the deal had already been established with the Vatican - whether or not he agreed. The agreement will reportedly be finalized after the Pope's visit - and the State has stressed emphatically that it will not renege on the terms of any agreement it has signed thus far with the Holy See. 

Rabbi Sevilla noted that the deal confirms that there is not, as far as he knows, an intention to hand over the site to the Vatican - but only to give the Vatican more control over the Christian elements of the site. 

However, he stressed, this is a slippery slope; the same logic was used when handing more control over the Temple Mount to the Waqf, and the move resulted in full sovereignty over Judaism's holiest site. 

Rabbi Sevilla added that the Christian world has experienced a serious revival over the past several months over the Tomb, and that mass prayer rallies and demonstrations have been planned for the Cenacle to strengthen a Christian presence there. 

While he obviously disagrees with this, the Rabbi also warned that this is not intended to cause discord between the Jewish and Christian communities. 

"We will act peacefully - and I do not want anyone to do something extreme or terrible that could, possibly, harm Christian tourism," Rabbi Sevilla said. Besides for the loud protests which erupted at the site Monday, Rabbi Sevilla added another example: a conversation he had with a man from the North who insisted that he will start an underground resistance movement over the measure.

"The Jewish people will not forgive anyone who walks down this path," he warned.