Afraid of Setting Precedent, Defense Delays Letting Woman Visit Father's Grave

Jack Khoury
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A Kafr Kana woman's request to visit her father's grave, which is now inside a closed military facility, is being delayed because the defense establishment is worried about setting a precedent, Haaretz found in an inquiry.

In June, Haaretz published the story of Salwa Salam Qubati, 60, a welfare clerk at the Nazareth municipality. Qubati has been trying for years to visit the grave of her father, who died while her mother was pregnant. He is buried in what was once the Christian cemetery of the village of Malul, adjacent to Nazareth, on whose ruins a military base was built.

Qubati said she tried several times to obtain defense establishment permission to visit the grave, but never received a reply.

When Haaretz inquired in June, Israel Defense Forces officials said this was the first time they were hearing of the case. As a result, Qubati was put in contact with the relevant military officials, but received no response.

After Haaretz queried the IDF Spokesman again several weeks ago, the Spokesman replied, "Salwa Salem Qubati's request is being handled with all due seriousness and professionalism by the relevant parties. Due to the complexity of the request, this process takes time. Immediately after a decision is reached in her case, the appellant will be notified, not via the media."

Meanwhile, Haaretz has learned that the IDF is recommending that Qubati's request be approved, but that the matter has been forwarded to the defense minister, who has yet to decide on the matter. Defense Ministry officials said the request has not been approved yet for fear of setting a precedent.

Qubati never met her father, Fares Salem, who worked as a railroad driver during the British Mandate and was killed in March 1948, when her mother was pregnant. Qubati was born that July, two weeks after her family and the rest of Malul's residents were evicted from the village by the IDF. Qubati's family, along with many of the other refugees, settled in the Nazareth region, hoping to return to their village within weeks. But the village was destroyed; only two churches and the Muslim cemetery remained.

The remnants of the Christian cemetery, where Qubati's father is buried, are inside what is now a closed military installation used by the Israel Air Force.