A recent judgment by Israel's supreme court will allow the construction of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Museum of Tolerance, designed by renowned US architect Frank Gehry, over a Muslim heritage cemetery of great historical importance in the centre of Jerusalem. It is a blow to peaceful coexistence in an already divided city.
This project, started in 2006, had been frozen due to public outcry and legal challenge, most especially from Muslim religious leaders and the Israeli Islamic movement, with the backing of Orthodox Jews concerned about disturbing graves. The site in Mamilla, near Jerusalem's Independence Park, is on disputed burial land taken over by the Israel's Land Administration in 1948, whose ownership is claimed by the Islamic authorities.
To pursue this divisive project that will include two museums, a library-education centre, a conference centre and a 500-seat performing arts theatre, would seem highly insensitive, a statement of Israel's hegemony over the Palestinians, rather than any expression of "tolerance". All the architecture in the world cannot engender harmony on the basis of trampling over people's rights and history. It is inflaming passions in an already combustible Middle East and will push any peace accord further off the horizon.
We call on the Jerusalem municipality, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Israeli authorities not to allow this architectural time-bomb to proceed.
Charles Jencks, Richard MacCormack, Neave Brown, Abe Hayeem, Haifa Hammami, Hans Haenlein, Cezary Bednarski, Kate Mackintosh, Suad Amiry (Ramallah), Shmuel Groag (Jerusalem), Beatriz Maturana (Australia), Walter Hain, Ian Martin and 28 others
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine