The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron will become wheelchair accessible despite lack of approval from the city’s Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled municipality.
“The time has come to move forward. We have green-lighted the elevator project to end the many years of discrimination at the site,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“Every person, irrespective of whether or not they are disabled, should have the opportunity to visit the tomb, which is an important Jewish heritage site,” he added.
The staircase to the holy site, while impressive, is inaccessible to the disabled, the elderly and pregnant women, causing them either to forgo the visit or require assistance.
The elevator construction project was delayed due to political controversy, as the 1997 Hebron agreement states that modifications to the holy site require approval from the city’s PA-controlled municipality.
In order to push the project through, Bennett authorized the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council to take over authorization powers from Hebron’s municipality.
The need to add an elevator for the disabled was highlighted in 2018 when Moti Ohayon, a wheelchair-bound resident of neighboring Kiryat Arba, died of injuries he sustained when he was being carried up the stairs and fell.
The three Jewish patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and three of the four Jewish matriarchs – Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah – are buried in the Tomb. The matriarch Rachel was laid to rest outside of Bethlehem. The Tomb has approximately one-million visitors each year. There are two entrances – one for Jews and the other for Muslims.