To live in Jerusalem is to be constantly reminded of the raw tensions running just beneath the roughly hewn Jerusalem stone, where every action and what often seems like every step is fraught with political, cultural, religious and ethnic consequence. Unsurprisingly, even the dead in the Holy City are subject to the conflicts of the living. One of the city's most burning issues currently centers around the Mamilla Muslim Cemetery, which straddles both the one-time geographical seam line and the still-relevant cultural seam line between east and west Jerusalem. The cemetery has filled its current role for hundreds of years; it dates back to Byzantine Jerusalem, when it housed both a church and the resting places of the monks who lives there, and it gradually became one of the preferred burial grounds for Jerusalem's Muslim community.
Within the cemetery grounds are several impressive mausoleums for prominent regional Muslim sages, squat, domed buildings with striking Arabic calligraphy in bas-relief. By the time the State of Israel was established, much of the cemetery had fallen into considerable disrepair, and parts of it had been either paved over or made part of Independence Park, the main public green space of downtown Jerusalem. This aroused little protest, but recently when the Simon Wiesenthal Center announced plans to build its Museum of Tolerance over part of the Mamilla Cemetery, an ironically intolerant shouting war between Jewish and Muslim Jerusalemites erupted. The protest has left the construction indefinitely stalled, which may be of benefit to historically minded Jerusalemites; while the Museum of Tolerance languishes, visitors can still wander among the mausoleums and headstones of the Mamilla cemetery for a closeup look of a bygone era in Jerusalem.
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