France reopens Jerusalem’s Tomb of the Kings for second time this year

An ancient tomb in Jerusalem prized for its archaeological and religious importance is reopened for visitation by France, which owns it, after a dispute over access scuttled an earlier attempt.

The site known as the Tomb of the Kings in East Jerusalem can now be visited during set hours twice per week, but visitors must pre-register online and pay a 10-shekel fee ($3 or €2.50), according to the French consulate.

Around 30 people — the most allowed at one time due to the sensitivity of the site — visited when the gates opened this morning, mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews who wanted to pray inside.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray at the Tombs of the Kings, a 2,000-year-old archaeological gem in the heart of Jerusalem owned by France, as it reopens for the public for a second time in six months, on October 24, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews believe the tomb is the holy burial site of ancient ancestors King David and King Solomon.

France had attempted to open the site to visitors in June after having kept it closed since 2010, initially due to renovations but later because attempts to contest its ownership complicated its reopening. It however immediately re-closed the site after a group of more than a dozen ultra-Orthodox tried to enter and pray despite not having signed up as requested, shoving toward the gate.

Before reopening the site this morning, France sought guarantees from Israel it would not face legal challenges as well as commitments on how visits would be managed.

— with AFP

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