The HRA’s latest report Sanctity Denied: The Destruction and Abuse of Muslim and Christian Holy Places in Israel was quoted in the most recent knesset meeting on March 10, 2005. The HRA generally sends out its reports to all Knesset members, and MK Jamal Zahalka from the Balad party brought up the topic of dereliction of Muslim and Christian places of worship after receiving Sanctity Denied. MK Zahalka requested the Knesset to discuss the issue and to urge the government to issue a resolution calling for respect of the minority’s holy places.
MK Zahalka referred to the comprehensive list of destroyed or neglected places of worship annexed to the report (Sanctity Denied, pp. 45-50) and mentioned the ancient mosque – built in 1192 – in the destroyed village of Hittin near the Sea of Galilee and the 200-year-old Catholic church of al-Bassa in the Northern Galilee as examples for the neglect of Muslim and Christian holy places in Israel. While the mosque in Hittin is inaccessible due to heavy steel fencing put up by government officials (Sanctity Denied, p. 18), al-Bassa’s church is in danger of collapse, and repair is not permitted since the church is located on state land (Sanctity Denied, p. 16).
In response to MK Zahalka’s demand for government action, Minister of Tourism Abraham Hirchson promised that his ministry would take care of the issue and that every complaint in connection with the destruction or abuse of Muslim and Christian holy places in Israel will be properly investigated. HRA Director Muhammad Zeidan stated that the HRA welcomes this commitment and will submit the full report Sanctity Denied: The Destruction and Abuse of Muslim and Christian Holy Places in Israel to Minister Abraham Hirchson as evidence. Moreover, the HRA will make its research and expertise available for follow-up on the issue of Muslim and Christian holy places in Israel