Jerusalem24 – The Al-Yusufiyah cemetery is located north of the Mercy Gate cemetery, along the eastern wall of the old city of occupied Jerusalem. The city has been under attack by the Israeli authorities for years, and excavations have reached archaeological ruins close to the Mercy gate.
The Cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of Muslim scholars and historical figures, including the remains of Iraqi and Jordanian soldiers. According to Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, the Integral Chair to the Works of Al-Imam Al-Ghazali in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, at least two of Prophet Muhammad’s companions are buried there; Oubad Ibn Al-Samitt and Shaddad Ibn Aws.
But it’s not only historical figures that are buried in this old cemetery. “All my family, my parents, my father and mother-in-law in that part of the cemetery,” says Abu Sway. The operations include the razing and exhuming graves and what Palestinians see as desecrating the remains of the dead. Abu Sway says, “what is at stake here is that it is universal that you should respect burial places, it’s also a historical place.”
On Sunday, Israeli machines swept parts of the Yusufiya cemetery adjacent to Al-Aqsa Mosque from the eastern side, which caused clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli military forces; who targeted the protesters with teargas and sound bombs.
Clashes erupted in a number of neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Interspersed with the arrest of two Palestinians by the Israeli forces.
Earlier this week, the Israeli court rejected the appeals of the Islamic Cemetery Care Committee of the Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem to stop the operations of the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem and the Israeli Nature Authority in the Yusufiya cemetery.
This isn’t the first time a historical cemetery was demolished in Jerusalem. “We have seen this in the Mamilla cemetery,” says Abu Sway. In 2004, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) revealed plans to build a Center for Human Dignity as part of its Museum of Tolerance with a target date for completion in 2009. During excavations to prepare the ground for construction in 2005–2006, skeletons were found and removed. The Islamic Court, a division of Israel’s justice system, issued a temporary ban on work, but work continued anyway.
The SWC’s plan also elicited considerable outcry from some Israeli academics and archaeologists, and work was stayed several times by the courts. After the Supreme Court rejected the Islamic Movement’s petition in October 2008, work resumed. Between November 2008 and April 2009, crews of 40 to 70 people per shift worked in 8-hour stints, 24-hours a day to remove an estimated 1,000 skeletons from the site slated for construction.
As of now the Islamic Cemetery Care Committee of the Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem is still working to continue its legal battle in Jerusalem’s magistrate court in order to put an end to the excavations.