The area around Mamilla Pool – just West of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem – has been a burial ground for ages. From the 11th century, it has been a prominent Muslim cemetery, holding early Islamic graves, Sufi shrines and graves from the Mamluk period. The cemetery that was in use till 1927.
With the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the area fell under the governance of West Jerusalem. And although it was stated that the cemetery would always be a respected and protected area a number of buildings, a road and other public facilities, such as a park, a parking lot and public lavatories have since been constructed on the cemetery grounds ever since. Some grave markers and tombs are still visible. Great controversy aroused with the plan to build a Museum of Tolerance (developed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center with the objective of ‘promoting unity and respect among Jews and people of all faiths’) on part of the cemetery grounds. Announced in 2004, the final approval was only given in July 2011. Since then already two architects have withdrawn from the project, reportedly deeming it too “politically sensitive”. The museum was scheduled to open in 2019 although it is unclear who will directly manage the institute and what the content of the museum’s permanent exhibition will actually be.
I saw the scattered headstones and tombs before during my walks through West Jerusalem, they look lost and abandoned. An incredibly sad sight.
All Photos are taken by Claudia Venhorst, February 2019.