Center for Human Dignity

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The Center for Human Dignity is the Simon Wiesenthal Center-planned Museum of Tolerance over Mamilla Cemetery at the center of West Jerusalem between Zion Square and the neighbourhood of Mamilla.

The project was re-designed on a more modest scale than originally planned.[1] and construction is still continuing in 2017 and the museum is expected to open in 2018.


The first design for the Center was originally designed by Frank Gehry,[2] was to include a museum, a theater, a conference hall, a library, and an educational center. The design of the Center had been seen as unique for Israel and, as such, has been met with many opponents and proponents.

The center was subsequently designed, on a more modest scale, by the Yigal Levy architects' office in Jerusalem in cooperation with the Aedas British-Singapore architectural firm


Those who are in favor of the Center, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, maintain that it will bring tourists to the city, while its opponents (excluding the Muslim gravesite objection) argue that it will stand out and draw attention away from the traditional architecture of neighboring streets and that of the city in general. Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti has said that the museum's "geometric forms that can't be any more dissonant to the environment in which it is planned to put this alien object."[3]

Location controversy[edit]

The museum's continued building on the ground of a Muslim cemetery has faced criticism from both Israeli and American Jews. Gershon Baskin at the Israel Palestine Research center has been critical of the museum as a moral failure.[4] The Mamilla Cemetery contained the graves of many important Islamic saints and scholars, as well as several Mamluk tombs.[5] The SWC asserts that the cemetery was long ago deconsecrated by Islamic leaders, and that secular Arab leaders prior to the creation of the State of Israel had planned various development projects there.[6] This argument has in turn been challenged in the Israeli legal system, but the argument was rejected by Israel's Supreme Court.

After controversy concerning its location on an ancient Muslim burial site came to head, its construction was frozen by a Supreme Court order issued in February 2006.[7] In November 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court decided to allow construction to proceed, noting that this corner of the cemetery had been transformed into a parking lot[8] "as long ago as the 1960s" and that Jerusalem has been inhabited for roughly 4,000 years, and many ancient sites have been built over.[9]

Construction had been stayed several times by the courts before allowing it to continue.[10][11] In autumn, 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court cleared "the way for L.A.'s Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a Holy Land counterpart to its Museum of Tolerance on Pico Boulevard."[12]

The Muslim groups who initiated the legal action which resulted in the Supreme Court order to freeze all construction had been undergoing mediation with representatives of the Center. Former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar serves as mediator.[7] As of 2017, the museum is under construction.


  1. ^ Projected we missed: The Museum of Tolerance
  2. ^ "Frank Gehry steps down from Museum of Tolerance project", Haaretz, Jan. 15, 2010
  3. ^ Meron Benvenisti, “A Museum of Tolerance in a City of Fanatics,” Haaretz Dec 5, 2002
  4. ^ "Gerson Baskin, Encountering Peace: A city of tolerance, not a Museum of Tolerance, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 4, 2008" Archived November 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Asem Khalidi (Spring 2009). "The Mamilla Cemetery: A Buried History". Jerusalem Quarterly. 37.
  6. ^ Gil Zohar and Gail Lichtman (February 21, 2008). "Jerusalem deconstructed". Jerusalem Post.
  7. ^ a b "Supreme Court freezes construction of Tolerance Museum", Walla!, February 23, 2006 (in Hebrew)
  8. ^ Kershner, Isabel (2010-02-10). "Museum Creates New Jerusalem Divide". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  9. ^ "SWC Press Release"
  10. ^ Hadassah on Museum of tolerance Archived 2009-09-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Zandberg on lack of transparency
  12. ^ "Israeli court OKs Museum of Tolerance's controversial branch", Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2008

External links[edit]