Garden Tomb Threatened by Muslim Construction

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JERUSALEM - More than a quarter of a million Christians visit Jerusalem's Garden Tomb every year. The holy site is believed by many to be the place where Jesus rose from the dead.

But now, the sacred ground is in danger of being damaged by a Muslim construction project. Garden Tomb Director Richard Meryon showed CBN News the 15-foot wall being built above the tomb.

"In the last few weeks the cemetery above has built this wooden construction into which they are now ready to pour hundreds of tons of concrete on top of our wall," he explained.

Jerusalem's Islamic waqf is building the wall to enlarge a Muslim cemetery. However, Meryon fears the construction could bring a catastrophe.

"Just beneath (the wall) we have three or four areas where Christians are worshipping every day. So we have the potential here in heavy rain or in snow, or even in one of those earth tremors that Jerusalem is famous for -- you only need one of those events to happen and this new wall could collapse," he said. "It could kill 200 visitors, pilgrims, and tourists in the garden worshipping."

The new wall also violates three local building codes and does not have a city permit. The structure is supposed to be built three feet away from any existing structure and permission is required.

"They have never sought my permission," Meryon said. "We have been in active discussion and I am now negotiating with them. I cannot allow them to build this wall until they prove to me beyond all reasonable doubt that this wall is going to be safe."

A spokesman from the Muslim cemetery told CBN News they do not have a license, but claim the new wall is safe. The mayor's office also said officials will make sure the building is legal so Jerusalem can remain open to tourists.

"We walk through the garden, we're hearing groups of people praising God, worshiping Him in every language from everywhere and we have taken people through the garden literally from every corner of the globe," one tour guide said.

And the concrete wall is not the only construction Meryon is worried about. He said recent digging on top of Golgotha next to the Garden Tomb threatens the hill known as the Place of a Skull. Many believe Jesus was crucified there.

"Golgotha is mentioned in John 19, where Jesus was led outside the city walls... into a place called Golgotha," Meryon said.

"Above Golgotha, in the last few days - bucket by bucket, load by load - a lot of dirt has been imported above the rock and below those graves on the skyline." he added. "I've known for some weeks that they were thinking of building a minaret up there."

Meryon wants to make sure Golgotha and the Garden Tomb remain intact.

"This is a very important Christian holy site," he said. "And we just want to live here in peace and provide this amazing opportunity for Christians all around the world to come here and continue to worship and be exposed to the gospel."

**Originally published September 3, 2010.

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