Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Frank Gehry-designed museum

A Frank Gehry-designed museum can rise in Jerusalem on a site that was once a Muslim cemetery, Israel's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, clearing the way for L.A.'s Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a Holy Land counterpart to its Museum of Tolerance on Pico Boulevard.

The $250-million project had been delayed since early 2006, when builders unearthed bones. Arab leaders in Israel sued to stop the project and were supported, in an unusual alliance, by some ultra-Orthodox Jews with firm beliefs against disturbing graves.

The court found that the cemetery dates back 300 to 400 years but fell into disuse after Israel gained statehood in 1948. The court said that since there had been no objections in 1960, when the city built a parking lot over part of the cemetery, it would not block construction of the museum on the same property.

The Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance will not have the prominent Holocaust remembrance theme of its L.A. counterpoint because that would duplicate Israel's memorial, Yad Vashem. Instead, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, the goal is to create "a great landmark promoting the principles of mutual respect and social responsibility." The 3-acre campus will include two museums, a library-education center, a conference center and a 500-seat performing arts theater.

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