A Frank Gehry-designed museum can rise in Jerusalem on a site that was once a Muslim cemetery, Israel's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, clearing the way for Los Angeles' Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a Holy Land counterpart to its Museum of Tolerance.
The $250 million Jerusalem project had been delayed since early 2006, when builders unearthed bones. Arab leaders in Israel sued to stop the project and were supported, in an unusual alliance, by some ultra-Orthodox Jews with firm beliefs against disturbing graves.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement Wednesday that “moderation and tolerance have prevailed.” But Zahi Nujidat, a spokesman for the Israeli Islamic movement, decried the ruling as “clear religious and ethnic oppression,” according to The Associated Press.
The Supreme Court's ruling requires museum builders to consult with Israel's Antiquities Authority on how to rebury any remains unearthed during construction and on creating a barrier between graves and the building's foundation. The court found that the cemetery dates back 300 to 400 years but fell into disuse after Israel gained statehood in 1948. The court said that since there had been no objections in 1960, when the city built a parking lot over part of the cemetery, it would not block construction of the museum.