Jaffa riots: 'There is no cemetery there'

Municipal spokesperson says Muslim cemetery at site of planned expansion of homeless shelter was relocated over a century ago.

Tags: Riots Jaffa
Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Muslim prayer at protest last Friday
Muslim prayer at protest last Friday
Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90

Tel Aviv-Jaffa City spokesman Eitan Schwartz addressed the ongoing riots in Jaffa over the alleged desecration of a Muslim cemetery in an interview with Reshet Bet Sunday morning.

"There is no cemetery there," Schwartz stated. "There may be bone remains as there probably are beneath all of Jaffa, as there probably are beneath the entire land of Israel. We are talking about a piece of land with thousands of years of history. We will definitely find bones at this site or at any other site across the country."

Addressing the historical issues, Schwartz explained: "There used to be a Turkish cemetery in the past. More than a century ago, the Muslims themselves ordered the evacuation of the cemetery and the transfer of the graves elsewhere, to the Sumil cemetery that exists today near the Hilton Hotel."

Schwartz said that a soccer field was built on the site of the former cemetery. "A soccer field [was built] for the Jaffa Muslim soccer club in the 1920s. Afterwards the Muslim Waqf rented the field to build warehouses for the British port.

"This lot was used for various purposes and yielded rental money to the Muslim Waqf and no one thought there was a problem with that," Schwartz argued.

According to him, "all of this is historically documented. You can read about it in the works of Samuel Giller, one of the historians of Jaffa. There is a record, there is documentation, even the Mufti of Jerusalem Husseini, who asked the British to provide land for a substitute soccer field when the space was rented to build warehouses. The place had no sanctity for Muslims themselves for at least the last hundred years."

"There was a daycare center which they decided to expand. Two years ago, when work began, bones were found, which happens at many locations in Israel. Then a great deal of litigation started against Jaffa officials," he said.

"You have to understand, there is no one address to can bring your complaints to and have it be over, where everyone agrees and accepts the decision, and that is part of the problem," he explained. "There have been many attempts at compromise and dialogue. Of course the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality has no interest in harming the departed or in creating facts on the ground with offends sensibilities. But on the other hand if you dig all over Jaffa you will probably discover bones that have thousands of years of history in this place."

"We build with great sensitivity, if and when they find human bones - they will be moved elsewhere in a respectful way," the spokesman promised.