Archaeologists have resumed excavating the Jerusalem site where the Museum of Tolerance is to go up, amid controversy surrounding the exhumation of skeletons in what had been a Muslim cemetery for nearly 1,000 years.
In addition to fielding objections to the museum site, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is sponsoring and financing the project, also has to contend with the recent resignation of the two architects who planned the museum. But for all the troubles, construction of the museum is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks.
No one involved in the digs would comment on any archaeological findings since the resumption of the excavations, which are taking place in the capital's Mamilla neighborhood. But the first archaeologist to work at the site said there must be more skeletons there.
"There are definitely skeletons there," said Gideon Sulimani, who also used to head the Israel Antiquities Authority's Jerusalem district. "They're digging at the edge of the excavation I conducted, and the graves continue in the direction in which they're currently digging."
The Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center said it would receive a summary of the archaeological findings after the excavation was completed. "The work is being conducted in accordance with the law," the center said in a statement, adding: "As far as we know, the work will be completed very shortly."
Architects Bracha and Michael Chyutin recently quit working on the museum over differences with the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Chyutin Architects was hired to design the museum about a year ago, after the resignation of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Chyutin Architects has signed a contract leaving the Wiesenthal Center with the architectural copyright for the plan.
More than 1,000 skeletons were expected to be exhumed during the excavation, which has the approval of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Although the Mamilla site served as the primary Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem for centuries, it was being used as a parking lot for the past few decades.
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: חודשו החפירות במוזיאון הסובלנות בי-ם, למרות החשש מהימצאות שלדים
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