Residents of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem have expressed outrage after discovering that work is underway to renovate and reopen an old mosque long out of use in the Jewish Quarter.
Locals have called the renovation work a “provocation”, noting that no Muslims live in the vicinity of the old mosque. Some residents have expressed concerns that the renovation work on the mosque, which is located on Chabad Street, may be the beginning of an effort to reopen numerous out-of-use mosques in predominantly Jewish areas.
Shoshana Selavan, chairwoman of the Jewish Quarter administration explained the community’s concerns in an interview with Yediot Ahronot.
“I’ve lived here in the neighborhood for 31 years. We don’t have any problem with the mosque itself, it’s been here forever. The building itself borders on the entrance to the Jewish Quarter on one side, and an Armenian apartment building on the other.”
“If they start operating the mosque now, it would just be a provocation. There are no Arabs living around here. It would be like if tomorrow we were to open up a synagogue in the middle of the Muslim Quarter.”
Selavan added that no announcement had been made to the neighborhood of the renovation work.
“Yesterday they hooked up the lighting system. No one notified us ahead of time about the renovations. We’ve been living here quietly with the people, not looking for trouble, but the green light which they hooked up this week lights up our homes, and if they start holding the calls to prayer there that would cause a major disruption of our daily lives.”
Penina Seidel, the wife of the well-known Jewish outreach organizer Jeff Seidel, has lived in the area for 36 years, and also expressed concerns that the reopening of the mosque could make life difficult in the Jewish Quarter.
“Obviously there are mosques everywhere in the Old City of Jerusalem, we aren’t debating the fact that the city is holy to everyone. But this mosque is located right at the entrance to the Jewish Quarter. After so many years of being out of use, the [mosque] is now in the advanced stages of [renovation], all they have left to do is install the speakers.”
“We see this as an infringement on our privacy and the independent life of the Jewish community in the quarter. The authorities haven’t taken any of our appeals seriously, they just direct us from one office to another.”
In response to the complaints, the Jerusalem municipality stated that an addition which had been illegally built for the mosque had been dismantled, and that the city would preserve the “status quo”.
“Following a complaint which was received several days ago regarding the construction of a room on the roof, the complaint was dealt with and the room dismantled. The City of Jerusalem will continue to maintain the status quo in the city and prevent any violation of it.”