Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The US State Dept.'s Religious Freedom Overview - Israel


Israel and the occupied territories
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
International Religious Freedom Report 2009
October 26, 2009

The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law applies to holy sites of all religious groups within the country and in all of Jerusalem, but the Government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. [not really. it refuses to promulgate any regulations as for time, place, etc. as regards the Temple Mount] Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the Government does not recognize them as official holy sites. At the end of 2008, there were 137 designated holy sites, all of which were Jewish. Furthermore, the Government has drafted regulations to identify, protect, and fund only Jewish holy sites. [that sounds starnge. I have been at dozens of Christian sites that are identified as such]

While well-known sites have de facto protection as a result of their international importance, many Muslim and Christian sites are neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property developers and municipalities. The Christian pilgrimage sites around the Sea of Galilee face periodic threats of encroachment from district planners who want to use parts of their properties for recreation. In the past, only diplomatic interventions have forestalled such efforts. Such sites do, however, enjoy certain protections under the general Penal Law (criminal code), which makes it a criminal offense to damage any holy site. Following a 2007 order by the High Court to explain its unequal implementation of the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law, the Government responded in March 2008 that specific regulations were not necessary for the protection of any holy sites. The Government did not explain why it therefore promulgated regulations for Jewish sites but not for non-Jewish sites.

and this

Restrictions on access to non-Jewish religious sites, as well as limits on funding and protection of those sites, also contributed to religious tensions. [is that an oblique reference to the Temple Mount?]


In East Jerusalem, the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) contains the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, among the holiest sites in Islam. Jews refer to the same place as the Temple Mount and consider it the location of the ancient Jewish temple. The location has been, as with all of East Jerusalem, under Israeli control since 1967, when Israel captured the city (East Jerusalem was formally annexed in 1980, and thus Israel applies its laws to East Jerusalem). The Haram al-Sharif--and all other Waqf institutions in Jerusalem--are administered, however, by the Jerusalem Waqf, a Jordanian-funded and administered Islamic trust and charitable organization with ties to the PA.

The Government of Israel, as a matter of stated policy, opposes non-Muslim worship at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount since 1967. Israeli police generally do not permit public prayer by non-Muslims and publicly indicated that this policy remains operative even though non-Muslims visit the compound...A group of Jewish extremists vandalized a Muslim cemetery near the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount on May 22, 2009. The same day, a Jewish group carrying Israeli flags and wearing shirts depicting the Jewish temple attempted to forcibly enter the site. According to credible reports, the same group vandalized some Palestinian-owned shops in the Old City after Israeli police turned them away from the compound.

Hey, they didn't invite me -

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

U.S. Government officials discuss religious freedom with the PA as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem regularly met with religious representatives to ensure their legitimate grievances were reported and addressed. The consulate general maintained a high level of contact with representatives of the Jerusalem Waqf. U.S. Government officials had frequent contact with Muslim leaders throughout Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The consulate also maintained regular contact with leaders of the Christian and Jewish communities in Jerusalem and the West Bank. During the reporting period, the Consul General and Consulate General officers met with the Greek, Latin, and Armenian Patriarchs, leaders of the Syrian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Coptic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches, as well as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Consulate General officers also met with rabbis, other central figures from Orthodox religious groups, and representatives of other Jewish groups.

During the reporting period, the Consulate General investigated a range of charges including allegations of damage to places of worship, incitement, and allegations concerning access to holy sites. Consulate General officers met with representatives of the Bethlehem Christian community and traveled to the area to investigate charges of PA mistreatment of Christians. The Consulate General raised the issue of seizure of Christian-owned land in discussions with PA officials and with the Jerusalem Municipality.

No comments: