What Does the NYC Muslim Center have that the Ibrahimi Mosque Doesn’t?
Is it possible that Muslims care more about their co-religionists in NYC than those in Hebron? Is it possible that they care more about their mosque in NYC than about the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron? Or is it just that they hate Jews more? Well, as a reader pointed out to me, we cannot say something about Muslims in one part of the globe based on behaviour of Muslims somewhere else. It is just that the heartfelt pleas, on the one hand, stands in such contrast to the harsh inhumane attitude of the other group, one claiming sole ownership of an ancient religious site, on the other hand, that led me to juxtipose the two.
The NYC Muslim Center is campaigning for donations to build an elevator to help their wheelchair-bound members go up the 13 steps to enter the mosque for prayers. That is certainly a worthy cause as no public building should be inaccessible to those for whom stairs are a challenge.
It is heartbreaking to watch how this man needs to be carried up the steps. The moderator quotes Mohammad who said: “Whoever relieves the difficulty of a believer in this world Allah will relieve a difficulty of theirs in the hereafter.”
But it seems that this does not pertain to believers in Hebron.
While there are only about ten steps leading up to the outer entrance to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, there are more than 20 steps beyond that before one can enter the prayer hall.
Therefore, it seems remarkable that the City of Hebron,the Hebron Waqf, and the Committee for the Rehabiitation of the Old City of Hebron petitioned the Jerusalem District Court in 2019 demanding cancellation of plans to construct an elevator that would make the Cave of the Patriarchs accessible to the disabled, the elderly and pregnant women, all of whom find the stairs prohibitive. What is even more remarkable is that they rejected the Israeli government offer to construct an elevator at the Muslim entrance to the mosque that is never used by Jews or to have Muslims who cannot use the stairs on their side be allowed to use the elevator to enter via the Jewish entrance.
The Hebron petitioners lost. It is doubtful they would be more successful if they were to appeal in the Israeli Supreme Court since accessibility in public buildings is a principle that has been mandated by law.
The accessibility elevator at the Jewish entrance is moving forward and Muslims will still have to face the thirty-plus stairs on their side. Perhaps it was worth it to them if it meant they would have been able to continue seeing photos like this:
I wrote an email to the NYC Muslim Center asking for their comment on this in view of their heartfelt plea for help in building an elevator for a 13-step climb. Their center is a very large one, providing religious services for a very large Muslim population in the city. But Muslims fought to take the Cave of the Patriarchs and Hebron away from the Jews and have it recognized as a “Palestinian” World Heritage Site. I would have thought they would have shown at least as much respect for the need for an accessibility elevator there as in NYC. How long should I wait for a response?
B’Tsalmo CEO Shai Glick, who worked relentlessly toward the actualization of the accessibility elevator wrote in response to this article:
For many years the State of Israel appealed to the Palestinian Waqf in Hebron begging them to agree to make the site accessible. Israel agreed to either fully fund the project on both side or to have each side bear the costs for its own entrance. In spite of the fact that there is a serious problem at both the Muslim and Jewish entrances, the Arabs stated that they prefer neither side to improve accessibility just so that the Jews will not.
Instead of understanding that religion can be something that can bring us together, they tried to divide us by means of religion. But they did not succeed.
As of today, Israel is building an elevator for the Jewish side. While the Waqf tried to argue that this comprises an insult to the Muslim public, the intelligent Arab understands that this is a total lie and they refused to come out to protest or demonstrate against the elevator.
People understand that accessibility is a humanitarian issue and not a political one.