Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has authorized a project to create a disability-access entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, saying it’s a project that is long overdue.
“The time has come to move forward. We have green-lighted the elevator project to end the many years of discrimination at the site,” Bennett said Sunday in a statement.
“Every person, irrespective of whether or not they are disabled, should have the opportunity to visit the tomb, which is an important Jewish heritage site,” he said.
“This is what it means to develop the settlements, with deeds and not words. I thank the prime minister and the foreign minister for their help in this matter.”
There is no doubt anyone with difficulty negotiating the ancient stone steps to the Tomb of the Patriarchs would heartily agree.
Construction of an elevator will make the Tomb wheelchair accessible; it would also make the site available to the elderly, the infirm and those with very young children, difficulty with balance and/or other physical issues.
Under the terms of an agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1997, construction of an elevator would require the approval of the PA-controlled Hebron municipality. But because the site itself is under the control of the IDF, and since the Hebron municipality objects to the project, Israel has placed it under the authority of the Civil Administration.
The Defense Minister instructed the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Brigadier General Kamil Abu Rukon, to “take all action necessary to carry out the task, including expropriating land near the site, in order to advance the project,” according to a ministry statement.
Bennett also authorized the Supreme Planning Council to complete all necessary planning procedures with the Hebron municipality.
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.
Content by TPS was used in this article.