By Dayna Gillespie, for the Mitzpeh, @Mitzpeh
The Palestine Liberation Organization expressed its opposition to the proposed construction of a Jewish museum and education center at the Western Wall Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday, according to a Jerusalem Post report.
The Western Wall Heritage foundation promotes the construction of the center, and the Western Wall administrator, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, is heading the project.
The PLO said the Israeli government should cease its plans to build Jewish installations to the wall because the proposed changes infringe on Islamic religious sites that have great importance to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.
The PLO said it believes Israelis are encroaching on the Western Wall and referred to the construction plans as a “flagrant assault.” Israelis plan to call the center Beit Haliba, or House of Core Values.
“The entire area of the Western Wall is really part of the problem. Any attempt by one of the parties to make any changes is really met with a great deal of hostility,” said Yehuda Lukacs, a faculty member of Judaic studies department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Jews pray at the Western Wall, also known as the kotel, year round. It is a gathering place for Jewish holidays and a national symbol for many Israelis.
The PLO Executive Committee referred to the wall by its Arabic name, Ha’it al-Buraq, in its statements following a meeting in Ramallah. The meeting’s objectives were to cease the construction of a Jewish center on the plaza.
The committee also discussed its plans regarding political and economic strategies amid the controversy.
The PLO’s attempts to prevent Israeli construction near the Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and its premises stem from controversies beyond the plaza.
“The Western Wall is the most significant religious site that the Jews have,” Lukacs said. “The conflict has erupted as a result of perceptions that Palestinians are inserting themselves. It is a sensitive subject.”
The PLO opposes house demolitions, collective punishment and Palestinian arrests in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem and compares the Israelis’ actions to those of an apartheid system.
Recently, the PLO released a statement to address their grievances with the Israeli system of government.
“Combating and defeating all forms of terrorism, regionally and internationally, requires ending Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders,” the PLO said in a statement during their meeting in Ramallah last weekend.