Israeli Arab activists called on Tel Aviv University to refrain from building new dormitories on graves which likely belong to a Muslim cemetery.
The calls came a week after two graves were unearthed and damaged during construction. The activists expressed concern that additional graves, that have yet to be unearthed, will be damaged during construction. Skulls and bones were reportedly visible at the construction site.
The two graves were discovered near Tel Aviv University’s Green House event hall by members of Muasasat Al-Aqsa, a group dedicated to preserving Islamic holy sites, as well as one member of Hadash.
According to Abed Al-Majid from Muasasat Al-Aqsa, most of the cemetery, which formerly belonged to the Arab village of Sheikh Munis, lies beneath a parking lot, street and buildings that now comprise the Green House compound.
“What has now been discovered is only part of a cemetery, whose gravestones were previously removed,” said Al-Majid, adding that additional construction will damage unearthed graves.
Juber Bassal, a member of the organization for the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Israel and a Hadash activist in Tel Aviv University, said that the graves should remain where they are and be encircled by a fence. According to Basel, the university has not dealt with the issue, and there is not showing any signs of compromise, such as preservation of the graves.
The spokesperson of the Israel Antiquities Authority released a response to the incident, saying that that authority is “checking the issue and will decide on future steps.”
Al-Majid says that the Antiquities Authority oversees the construction so that the graves are not harmed, but that “bones are found anyway.”
“This has happened in dozens of places and is not acceptable according to Islamic law. Why not find an alternative in order to not damage the graves?”
Tel Aviv University issued a response stating that construction had been halted in order to “receive further instructions from the Israel Antiquities Association,” adding that construction would only take place under direct supervision of the authority.