The High Court of Justice is hearing a petition challenging the exclusive designation of the Kosel Tunnels as a Jewish site, to the exclusion of Christians and Muslims. The petition was filed by a number of archaeologists under the banner ‘Emek Shaveh’, explaining they are trying to avoid the “politicization of archaeology”. Their petition was prompted by a letter released by Ministry of Religious Services legal counsel Chaggai Avrahami, who explains the tunnels are government by the same regulations preserving Jewish holy sites because the access to the tunnels is from the Kosel Plaza.
Avrahami explains that the decision was made following consultation with the Chief Rabbis of Israel but Emek Shaveh tells the court that some of what was uncovered during the excavation that began in the 1980s is holy to both Christianity and Islam too.
Examples cited include are the Christian prayer chapel, a Muslim school and chambers from the Mamluk period. They add the northern opening of the tunnels is found on the Via Dolorosa route which is holy to Christianity.
Attorney Eitai Mack represents Emek Shavah and he contends the current designation is a violation of the Basic Jerusalem Law which states that the holy sites of all faiths must be respected.
High Court Justice Uzi Fogelman has set 3 Teves to hear the petition. The state is instructed to respond two week prior to the date.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)