The legal adviser of the Jerusalem Waqf complained last week to Mayor Nir Barkat about what he called the municipality’s hostile attitude toward the property and territory of the Muslim Islamic trust over the past year. The Waqf administers Muslim properties on and near the Temple Mount.
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In a letter, Jamal Abu Toameh claimed that the city has been increasingly aggressive toward the Waqf, which, he reminded Barkat, is an official agent of the Jordanian Waqf, which answers to the Jordanian government. “This continued harassment is disastrous, dangerous and involves unnecessary, unwanted conflicts that have no logic or purpose,” Toameh wrote, adding that if the municipality did not change its ways, it could lead to confrontations.
The first complaint was about a “gardening order” issued eight months ago for Waqf-owned land in Emek Tzurim National Park, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The order allows the city and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to do landscaping and install playground equipment on the site.
The second complaint related to a stop-work order and the sealing a year ago of a large building purchased by the Waqf adjacent to the Temple Mount wall in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. The Waqf, which sought to convert the building into a public restroom for visitors to Al-Aqsa Mosque, argued that all of the work was to the interior of the structure and did not require a special permit.
The third complaint was about the plan to move a garbage-compacting facility to the Wadi Joz neighborhood, also on Waqf property.
In a statement, the municipality said that the work at Emek Tzurim National Park was being done in response to requests from local residents and was for their benefit. The garbage compactor was being moved because “The municipality received a request from Muslim worshippers who complained, justifiably, about the location of the garbage compactor near the entrance to the Temple Mount.”
As for the restroom conversion, the city said, “We’re talking about a grave building violation committed by the Waqf without the municipality’s knowledge or approval. ... Until there is an agreement on the legal use of this structure the city will not allow it to open.”