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Thursday, February 23, 2006
Wiesenthal Center statement welcoming Supreme Court Appointment of Mediator

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2006

STATEMENT BY THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER ON THE ISRAELI SUPREME COURT
RULING ON MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE JERUSALEM

"The Simon Wiesenthal Center welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of
Israel to appoint former Chief Justice Meir Shamgar as the mediator for a
30-day period to help facilitate a resolution regarding the remains found on
the construction site of the Center For Human Dignity - Museum of Tolerance
Jerusalem.

This is in keeping with the spirit of our initial presentation to the Court
where we offered three separate remedies. We hope that this mediation
period will produce a solution equitable to all parties."

Support From Key Israeli Leaders

This week, top Israeli leaders reiterated their support for the project.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "This is an essential project for
Jerusalem, a landmark that will change the face of Jerusalem forever. I
stand behind it 100% with all my power."

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski: "I applaud the creation of the Museum of
Tolerance. For the past three decades this land has been utilized as a
public car park and it is commendable that it will now serve as the site for
this important Museum.I have received your proposal to renovate the old
Muslim cemetery adjacent to the Museum's site and I congratulate you on your
initiative. The cemetery has been neglected for many years. Your support
in renovating it.is a first example of the role of the Museum that is to be
established.I have no doubt that the construction of the Museum is vital for
the City of Jerusalem and that it will be built rapidly at this site which
has been designated for it."

Background

The Center For Human Dignity is being built in the heart of West Jerusalem,
on land granted to the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the Government of Israel
and the City of Jerusalem. At no time did the Government of Israel or the
City of Jerusalem designate the site as a Moslem cemetery. Rather, it had a
legal status as a 'public open space.' In fact, for decades, it has served
as a paved public municipal parking lot, including an underground four
level-parking garage.

On June 7, 1964, the issue of this land was brought before the Sha'aria
(Moslem religious law) Court of Appeals. The Chief Judge ruled that the
area including this site was "a Mundras (abandoned burial site). that its
sanctity has ceased to exist in it... and it is permitted to do whatever is
permitted to do in any other land which was never a cemetery."

From 1923 to 1931, the Supreme Moslem Council developed a plan to establish
a pan-Islamic University on 70 dunam that would have included all of
Independence Park and our current site. The planned campus would have
included many large buildings that would have required extensive excavation.
The project was never realized because of lack of funds.

Over the course of the last five years, throughout the public
planning process, the Center For Human Dignity was the subject of hearings
at open City Council meetings, through notices published in both Hebrew and
Arabic newspapers, and the architectural model was on public display at City
Hall. Throughout those years not a single person or organization came
forward to object to the development of site on the grounds that it was a
Moslem cemetery.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international
Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the
United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United
Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS and the Council of Europe.

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