JERUSALEM (Aug. 5)
A Cabinet decision yesterday, made public today, to introduce new arrangements for Jewish and Moslem prayers at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs was immediately rejected this morning by the Moslem Supreme Council meeting in Jerusalem. The new arrangements provide for the divisions of the holy site space-wise rather than time-wise as heretofore.
The large “Isaac and Rebecca” hall will now be reserved for Moslem prayers throughout the day, and the smaller “Abraham and Sarah” and “Jacob and Leah” halls will serve for Jewish prayers. Tourists and visitors will be allowed into all three halls (regardless of their creed)–but not during prayer times. Previously the day had been divided up, with some hours reserved for Moslem prayer, during which time Jewish worshippers and visitors were not admitted to the site.
The new arrangement was formulated by Defense Minister Shimon Peres after a visit to the site last week. There had been squabbling and some violence between the Jewish settlers of nearby Kiryat Arba and the Moslem worshippers. According to some reports, six doveish Cabinet ministers abstained in the Cabinet vote on the new measures and indicated that they believed they were misguided and mistimed.
POSSIBLE UNREST ON FRIDAY
Observers said today there might be unrest in Hebron–especially on Friday, the Moslem holy day. Under Peres’ arrangements, Friday is reserved for the Moslem worshippers at the tomb. Jews will be allowed to pray there after sunset only.
Asked for his reaction, Hebron’s Mayor Mohammed All Al Jaabari said this was a religious issue and referred questioners to the Moslem Supreme Council. The settlers’ leader Rabbi Moshe Levinger was not available for immediate comment.
Peres rejected the settlers’ proposal that the ancient Jewish quarter of the city be restored to Jewish life. He has ordered, however, that the ancient synagogue and cemetery be signposted. The Hebron municipality has agreed to clean out the ancient synagogue.