Minister cancels left-wing group’s tour of Jerusalem Arab cemetery

Visit to Mamilla, nixed from Open House festival by Ze’ev Elkin, will go ahead unofficially, says interfaith organization

Partial view of Mamilla Cemetery. (CC BY-SA Yoninah, Wikimedia commons)
Partial view of Mamilla Cemetery. (CC BY-SA Yoninah, Wikimedia commons)

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin forced the cancellation of a tour of a cemetery in the city because it was to be led by a left-wing interfaith group.

Former Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yonathan Mizrachi, founder of Emek Shaveh, was due to guide tours of the Muslim cemetery in Mamilla this weekend as part of an interfaith event organized by Open House Jerusalem, a festival taking place October 26-28 and featuring tours of buildings in the city.

Yonathan Mizrachi, head of left-leaning interfaith activist archeology group, Emek Shaveh. (courtesy)

Emek Shaveh said in a statement Tuesday that Elkin had canceled its participation in the festival in light of accusations leveled at it by right-wing activists. It said the claims were “completely false and… based on distortions and lies.”

Elkin referenced those accusations in explaining his decision to nix the tour.

“We are not prepared to accept the fact that government funding will be awarded to a person who claims that archaeological excavations funded by the State in the City of David and the Old City are like the Hamas tunnels, and that a representative of the organization which he leads is interviewed for films by the Islamic Movement that constitute incitement against the State of Israel,” he said in a statement.

Emek Shaveh said it will offer the tours anyway, without the umbrella of the Open House festival.

The Mamilla cemetery, which lies just outside the Old City, was first used as a Muslim burial place in the 11th century. It was in use until 1927 when it was decided to preserve it as a historic site. In addition to Muslim graves it holds thousands of Christians and Crusader tombs.

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