|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Israelis, Lebanese argue over holy man's grave
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Sovereignty over a centuries-old grave of a holy man emerged Thursday as the main obstacle to deploying U.N. peacekeeping troops on the Israel-Lebanon border, officials said.
Israel says the grave -- on the frontier line drawn by the United Nations after Israeli troops pulled out of Lebanon in May -- is that of Rabbi Ashi, a Jewish sage who lived in the fifth century.
Lebanon says Muslim holy man Sheikh Abbad, who lived about 500 years ago, is buried at the site.
"The Lebanese claim that it is on their territory and the Israelis say it is not. This is a very difficult issue, it is a very sensitive issue," Daljeet Bagga, a spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), told Reuters.
"They can't put the grave in between the two countries," he said.
An Israeli military official said the border line goes through the middle of the disputed grave site.
Israeli military officials and UNIFIL officials Wednesday toured the tomb, on a hill overlooking Kibbutz Manara, a collective farming settlement inside Israel.
According to tradition, Sheikh Abbad lived as a hermit in the area about 500 years ago with religious followers who made mattresses that they sold near the Sea of Galilee.
Rabbi Ashi lived about 1,600 years ago and assembled the Babylonian Talmud, an interpretation of Jewish oral law.
A Solomonic solution may be in order.
The Israeli official said one of the two options being considered was to divide the grave, with the border fence cutting through it. The other was to put a barricade around it to prevent Muslims and Jews from visiting the site.
Bagga said the United Nations was waiting for Beirut to give the nod for UNIFIL peacekeeping troops and Lebanese forces to be deployed in Lebanon's south, which since the Israeli pullout has been controlled by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. But the Lebanese government says it will give the go-ahead only when Israel ends all border violations.
An Israeli diplomatic official said the Lebanese complaints of border violations were "laughable."
"They are complaining over ridiculous things like a bag of sand left on the border," said the official, who declined to be named.
In Beirut, U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen held talks with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on the border infractions and said there was only one remaining Israeli violation of the Lebanese border.
Yitzhak Tamir, from Kibbutz Manara, said residents of the secular farming community didn't really care whether the grave was in Israel or Lebanon -- they just wanted the bickering over the border to end.
"They are arguing over millimeters," he said. "Every day there are new demands," said Tamir, 77.
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
See related sites about Middle East
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.