RAMALLAH: Muslim residents of a town in Jerusalem have come to a compromise solution over pressure from Israeli settler groups and organizations to demolish a prominent mosque’s golden dome.
Municipality officials had originally ordered the removal of the structure at Al-Rahman Mosque in Beit Safafa but following months of legal representations and consultations with locals it was agreed that the dome’s height would be reduced, and its color changed to silver.
On Tuesday, the renovation work, being carried out by townsfolk, got underway and will include the building of a minaret.
Beit Safafa mukhtar, Mohammed Elayan, told Arab News: “The people of the village found this option to be the best and least harmful to protect the Al-Rahman Mosque.”
In 2021, the Al-Rahman Mosque Committee launched a fundraising campaign to expand the mosque and applied to the municipality for the necessary permissions.
But the plans angered Israeli settlers who claimed the golden dome resembled that of the Dome of the Rock and called for its demolition on the grounds that it had been built without a permit.
Elayan said: “This matter disturbed the settlers, especially since the mosque is huge and wide, and the dome is high and visible from all directions. It is located on the outskirts of the village and surrounded by an Israeli industrial zone.”
He noted that settlers had highlighted their claims by taking pictures and videos and posting live broadcasts from near the mosque on social media.
“A few days later, the municipality came to the place to inquire about the matter, which prompted the town mayors to meet, follow up, and reach a decision to proceed with the legal path to avoid any process of demolishing the mosque,” he added.
Beit Safafa is a Palestinian town located 4 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem and north of Bethlehem with a population of 18,000. It is surrounded by Israeli settlements and Israeli authorities have taken land for building projects.