Maariv: Israel-Vatican crisis over Jerusalem holy site
A dispute over David’s Tomb or the Room of the Last Supper, just outside the Old City of Jerusalem is at the heart of the crisis. Kikar Hashabat, an ultra-orthodox news portal attributes “the great victory” to the two current Chief Rabbis, “who one year ago published an announcement that it was prohibited to transfer Jewish property to Christians.”
The Mount Zion Foundation, which maintains the site, has more information on the “property” at stake. Its website offers a “rare opportunity” to acquire “an extraordinary array of spiritual artifacts from King David’s Royal Tomb Complex.” These range from “a metal clad door” to “to the window frames of transforming light.” Prices are not mentioned, but Rabbi G. Goldstein’s e-mail is availible for “the discerning collector.” The website also offers online shoppers a choice of purchases from the adjacent Chamber of the Holocaust. A range of “naming dedications” is available for every budget starting with an “Honorary Member” for $180, through the “Biblical garden” for $1,000,000, all the way to $8,000,000 for the entire chamber’s “People’s Memorial.”
The holy sites crisis
Yossi Bar, Maariv, December 11 2009
Israeli and Vatican delegations, which yesterday discussed the financial and legal status of Israel’s Christian holy sites, reached a dead end. According to Vatican sources, relations between the two countries are on the verge of crisis, and these same sources are also threatening to sever diplomatic ties with Israel.
The Israeli delegation, directed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, flew to the Vatican in order to discuss the status of the Vatican’s assets in Israel, and also the Vatican’s demand to receive ownership of the Room of the Last Supper on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus held the Passover dinner with his 12 disciples before being crucified.
The two committees were unable to reach an agreement on any issue, and decided to postpone their discussions to May 27. A source in the Vatican said that they had been waiting 15 years to reach an agreement with Israel over the status of the holy sites, but that Israeli governments were unable to reach a decision on any matter.
Deputy Minister Ayalon told Ma’ariv that he’d rather not refer to the matter as a crisis, and added that the delegations had decided to part cordially and refrain from speaking of a crisis. “There was no breakthrough, and we therefore agreed to end the meeting with the phrase ‘we have agreed not to agree.’” But the deputy minister also added that “Israeli and Vatican delegations reached an impasse.”
Ayalon evinced to the Vatican that Israel would not forfeit its sovereignty and possessions in Mount Zion, where the Room of the Last Supper is located — one of the key issues of contention between the two delegations. The Vatican seeks to be the only body to operate the site and to conduct prayers taking place there, whereas Israel opposes this request seeing that according to Jewish faith, King David is buried under the hall. Interior Minister Eli Yishai opposes granting the Vatican exclusive rights to the hall, and also other officials, among them rabbis and organizations dealing with activities in the Jewish Quarter, have asked that the asset remain in Israeli hands.
As to the Vatican’s properties in the holy land, the Holy See has asked for an exemption from future appropriations of lands belonging to the Catholic Church, but the Israeli delegation did not agree to forfeit all access to the thousands of dunams in its territory. Also on the issue of tax exemption, Israel and the Vatican have failed to reach agreement.