JERUSALEM (Aug. 24)
With Rosh Hashanah approaching, Israeli authorities are making arrangements to re-open the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank town of Hebron.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin met with military officials and Chief Rabbis Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and Yisrael Meir Lau to discuss the re-opening of the site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims.
The army closed the site following the Hebron massacre of Feb. 25, when Israeli settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians praying there.
Jewish settlers are pressing authorities to re-open the site in time for Rosh Hashanah, which falls this year on Sept. 6. Local Muslims also want to see the site re-opened for their own prayers.
According to Jewish and Islamic tradition, the tomb is the burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
Until the massacre, Jews and Muslims sometimes prayed there simultaneously, separated by temporary partitions. But Israeli security officials now want a rigid separation of the prayer schedules of the two communities.
Another proposal reportedly under consideration — and hotly opposed by settler leaders — is for a permanent physical separation of the two communities: Jews would pray in the Halls of Abraham and Jacob, while Muslims would have exclusive use of the much larger Hall of Isaac.