Al-Rahma Cemetery בית הקברות אל רחמה

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The Muslim cemetery, south of the e Golden Gate, serves the Muslim residents of Jerusalem even
today. The northern part of the site is called the Al-Sahaba Cemetery and it is located in the area
between the Golden Gate and the Lion’s Gate. The two cemeteries cover about 20 acres over a
long narrow strip (approximately 515 meters) from the Lion’s Gate to the southeast corner of the
Old City wall (the Ophel). Muslim tradition notes that individuals from the very first days of Islam are
buried in the cemetery. In addition, the cemetery also includes the graves of Muslim rulers from the
early Arab period and familial tombs of Jerusalem’s richest families. Adjacent to the cemetery, on
the eastern side, is the Ophel promenade, which connects the Lion’s Gate to the eastern-southern
corner of the Old City. The site is called in Arabic – “Makbarat Bab al-Rahma”. It is said that in the
eighth century AD, there was an opening in the Golden Gate (which was closed in the 16th century),
which provided direct access from Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif to this cemetery.
In the past years, different Israeli organizations have protested against the continuation of the burial
in the southern part of the cemetery.
In 2004, the burial grounds were expanded to the area of the Ophel promenade, which sparked
tension between all parties concerned - the Waqf, the Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel
Antiquities Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality. The municipality even filed a demolition order
for the expansions that were conducted. ‘The Public Committee Against the Destruction of
Antiquities on Temple Mount’ brought together archaeologists, scholars and lawyers, who petitioned
the supreme court in 2005 to sue the State of Israel (7192/04 + 7800/05) due to their failure to
enforce the ban on burials in the southern part of the cemetery. The basis for the claim is that the
place is declared an archeological site and is part of the national park, ‘around the walls of
Jerusalem’, and the excavation and burial on the site is damaging to the antiquities.
The supreme court’s decision from 2009 (19/07/2009) rejected the petitions but determined that the
authorities must enforce the law and protect the site from damage. Currently, if Muslim residents
wish to bury their dead in the southern side of the cemetery, the must obtain a permit from the
court. The protest against the right to burial in part of Bab al-Rahma is especially significant when
compared to the public (Israeli) investment in the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Despite
the official declarations of the Israeli authorities on their recognition of the importance of the Mount
of Olives to the traditions of other religions, the development of the Mount of Olives clearly
underlines the Jewish tradition (alone) and its relationship to Israel today. The churches on the
Mount of Olives are identified with Christian tradition and their grounds are physically separated
from the cemetery. However, the Bab al-Rahma cemetery, which is adjacent to the eastern wall of
the Old City and identified with the important Islamic tradition on the site, does not receive similar
treatment. Cemeteries have become a political asset in the East Jerusalem struggle for sovereignty
and it is evident that the Israeli government’s main focus is on strengthening their grip on these
sites.
The total area covered by these three cemeteries (Yusufiyya, al-Sahaba, al Rahma) on the eastern
wall of city, includes approximately 50 acres in which tens of thousands of people are buried. The
capacity to bury so many in such a small area is possible due to the familial burial method, in which
several family members are buried in the same grave. The burial complex between the Lion’s Gate
and the corner of the Ophel has two entrance gates, one on the north side and one on the south. A eulogy awning and stone paved paths were built on the site. Some of the graves are located right
next to the stones of the old city wall.


zoning Status

Statutory Status:
The area of the al-Sahaba and al-Rahma Cemeteries are in TPS no. 3794, which was submitted in
1988 by the Jerusalem Foundation through architect A. Rahamimoff (published on public record on
17.1.91, no. 3834). The plan’s objective is to rezone parts of the cemetery marked in the plan AM/9
as an open public space and pathway. In practice, the implication of the plan means the reduction
of the cemetery grounds by 7 acres, mainly from the east, along the Ophel promenade. This is an
example of the Israeli establishment’s biased policy regarding the needs and rights of Muslim
residents in the city.
Additional TPS plans near the cemetery complex –
TPS no. 3474 ‘the Lion’s Gate Atrium’ is an approved plan, which was published on record on
15.9.85. Its total area is approximately 800 square meters east the gate, outside of the Old City + 6
acres west of the gate, inside the Old City. The plan was submitted by the Jerusalem Foundation
through architect A. Rahamimoff and includes the development of the lot of the Gate of the Tribes,
on the outskirts of the Saint Anne complex.

TPS no. 3793 ‘The Lion’s Gate Hill’ is an area of approximately 6 acres in between the Lion’s Gate
from the north, the cemetery from the west, the Ophel promenade from the south and Jericho Road
from the east. Bloc 30111, parcels no. 2-3. This is another plan initiated by the Jerusalem
Foundation through architect A. Rahamimoff (published on public record in 17.1.91, no. 3834). The
plan’s objective is to rezone the area from a ‘preserved cemetery’ in plan AM/9 to an open public
space. De Facto, the plan will decrease the cemetery grounds and increase the open public space
by 2.2 acres.

Parent Usages

  • Cemetary (Muslim) active

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