After prolonged battle, Israel approves work to make Cave of the Patriarchs accessible to disabled

May 4, 2020 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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After months of battling, Defence Minister Naphtali Bennett has approved construction work on the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron which will make it accessible to people with disabilities.

The area near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where Israeli Border Police officers thwarted a stabbing attack. Hebron, Feb 3, 2019. Photo by Tzipi Schlissel/TPS

The holy site is currently accessible only by a long set of stairs.

Bennett instructed Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, head of the IDF’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), to carry out all the actions required to expropriate the land needed for the structure that will make the site accessible.

“I would like to advance the issue without delay,” Bennett wrote to COGAT on Sunday.

The Minister’s green light was given after the Justice Ministry gave its approval a few weeks ago, and after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz gave their agreement over the weekend.

Bennett stated that “for years, the development of the Cave of the Patriarchs was delayed, it is time to move forward.”

“We are giving a green light for the construction of an elevator to stop the long-standing discrimination at the site. Any person, with disabilities or without, should be given the opportunity to visit the cave, which is an important Jewish heritage site,” he added.

” This is what development looks like – in deeds and not in words,” he concluded.

Member of Knesset Michal Shir congratulated Bennett “who responded to the moral call to make the Cave of the Patriarchs accessible.”

“I hope that already during the upcoming Tishrei holidays, those with disabilities will be able to visit the site like anyone else, and even if it is delayed – better late than never,” she said.

Israel was hesitant in moving forward with this relatively small project because of the possible diplomatic fallout.

Hanan Ashrawi, Member of the PLO Executive Committee, described work to make the Cave of the Patriarchs accessible to disabled people as “Israeli aggression.”

“Israel’s approval of the confiscation of Islamic Waqf land belonging to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron is an egregious assault on Palestinian land and a grave violation of international law as well as signed agreements,” she stated last month.

“This is a provocative and irresponsible action that will stoke religious sensitivities,” she added.

She called on UNESCO and “responsible international actors to assume its obligations under international law to defend the Ibrahimi Mosque and its vicinity from this act of thievery.”

The Palestinian Authority has denied any Jewish connection to the site.

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