Turkish PM’s statement contradicts firmans (imperial decrees) issued by the Ottoman authorities recognizing Jewish rights at Rachel’s Tomb.
Jerusalem Post Staff
08 November ’10
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has been described as “neo- Ottoman” in outlook, told the Saudi paper Al-Watan in March that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”
But Erdogan’s statement contradicts firmans (imperial decrees) issued by the Ottoman authorities in Turkey recognizing Jewish rights at Rachel’s Tomb, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has pointed out in a new research paper.
In 1830, the Turks issued the firman that gave legal force to Rachel’s Tomb being recognized as a Jewish holy site. Additionally, notes the JCPA’s Nadav Shragai, the governor of Damascus sent a written order to the mufti of Jerusalem to fulfill the sultan’s order:
“This is our order to you: [The following matter] was submitted to us by the subject of our order, the sage representative of honored Jerusalem’s Jewry and his translator that the tomb of esteemed Rachel, the mother of our Lord Joseph… They [the Jews] are accustomed to visit it from ancient days; and no one is permitted to prevent them or oppose them [from doing] this… It turned out that at this holy site, theyhave been visiting since ancient times, without any person preventing them or trespassing on their property and they [have it] as was their custom. In accordance with the respected judgment, I order that our commandment be issued to you so you will treat them accordingly without addition or without subtraction, without hindrance and without opposition to them by anyone in any way whatsoever – written August 10, 1830.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization aka UNESCO says Rachel’s Tomb is a MosqueNovember 3, 2010
Referring to the structure as the “Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb”, UNESCO’s board voted 44 to one, with 12 abstentions, to reaffirm that the site was “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law”.
…Director Irena Bokova had previously stated “concern” at Israel’s decision to treat the tomb as a heritage site.
The vote called for Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs – the burial site of the other Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs – to be removed from Israel’s National Heritage list.
The Palestinian Authority has claimed that Rachel’s Tomb is holy to Muslims as the site of a mosque called the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. The PA demands control over both the tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron, as well as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
UNESCO appeared to support the PA demand for the Temple Mount as well, asking that Muslim officials be allowed to examine the Mughrabi Gate near the Western Wall (Kotel). Muslim leaders have accused Israel of attempting to damage the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount under the guise of repairs to the Mugrabi Gate. Israeli officials have warned that if the gate is not repaired, it could collapse, putting worshipers at the Western Wall at risk.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, Rabbi of the Western Wall, termed the decision “outrageous.”
“They have never said in the past that this was a Muslim holy site. The [UN] organization responsible for heritage has turned heritage into politics.” Israel should think carefully about whether or not to cooperate with UNESCO in the future, he said.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounced the UNESCO ruling.
“Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians that they took the graves of their prophets as mosques. She (‘A’isha) reported: Had it not been so, his (Prophet’s) grave would have been in an open place, but it could not be due to the fear that it may not be taken as a mosque.”
Israel’s reaction was not quite as serious as it first appeared. Ayalon’s spokeswoman said that Israel would cut off relations with UNESCO altogether – but shortly after said that the announcement had been made in error and retracted the statement.