Tomb of Shimon bar Yochai at Meron
Tomb of Shimon bar Yochai at MeronJonathan Stein

The Deputy Attorney General and Deputy State Attorney recommend that the expropriation procedures of the shrine of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron be renewed as soon as possible so that ownership of the site is transferred to the state.

It is also recommended to formulate an arrangement for the management of the site the day after the expropriation, including the determination of the party on behalf of the government that will manage the site.

In a statement issued on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, it was stated that "Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's tomb is one of the most important sites for Jews in Israel and in terms of the number of visitors it is second only to the Western Wall. The site was managed in a way that did not satisfy the requirements for years, and in view of the accumulation of much evidence that testified to serious failures in its management and in view of the great importance of the site, in 2007, procedures for the expropriation of the ownership of the complex by the State of Israel began. These efforts were intensified even more after the Meron disaster".

"In view of the serious and ongoing deficiencies in the management of the site, over the past two years, there have been a number of discussions regarding the question of continuing the management of the shrine within the framework of a temporary arrangement. At these meetings, it emerged that the temporary compromise arrangement for the management of the shrine which was validated by a ruling, is not satisfactorily implemented and that there are significant deficiencies in the way the site is managed."

The ministry notes that in a letter sent to the Minister of Religious Services and the Minister of Finance that "a significant difficulty has been found in managing the site in a benevolent way when there are private parties, other than the state, who claim rights to manage the site. In addition, there are dramatic advantages to uniform management by a public body on behalf of the state. This advantage is reflected in a number of aspects, including the management of procedures to remove intruders in favor of expanding the areas to the public, developing infrastructure and issuing permits to improve the place to receive the public, insurance of the responsibility for the site through a central agency on behalf of the state and budgeting of the site in favor of its continued development."

The letter was sent as a follow-up to the letter from the Director General of the Ministry of Religious Services and the Director General of the Ministry of Finance that was sent to the private funds that manage the site to allow them to assert their claims regarding the intention to renew the expropriation procedures.

Even after the funds received the letter regarding the renewal of the expropriation procedures, the recommendation of the professionals remains that it is necessary to renew the expropriation procedures as soon as possible, for the reasons detailed in the letter.