Muslims, Jews Protest Tomb Restrictions Measures Separate Faiths

Article excerpt

Muslims and Jews alike protested new Israeli security measures at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, reopening today 8 1/2 months after a Jewish settler machine-gunned 29 Muslims as they knelt in prayer.

The measures require Muslims and Jews to pray separately. They also would have separate bathrooms and walkways outside the shrine, which has been equipped with metal detectors, electronic gates and television cameras.

"We consider the Ibrahimi Mosque a holy place for Muslims, and we do not accept division or separation," said Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestinian self-rule authority. "We see this separation as a provocation that will lead to increasing tension between Muslims and Jews."

Abdel Rauf al-Muthassib, who lives across the street from the tomb, said it was "not a house of worship anymore. It's a house of politics," he said.

Both sides will be limited to 200 worshipers.

Jews are barred from the largest room inside the building, Yitzhak Hall, which is used as a mosque. The immediate area around the tombs of Abraham and Jacob will be reserved for Jews.

Each faith will have only one entrance from the outside, with other doors as well as interior portals sealed with huge metal sheets. Each side will have exclusive use of the building during 10 religious holidays during the year. …