Mass Protest Against Mormon Building
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Thousands of Orthodox Jews using the slogan ″Jerusalem Is Not For Sale″ demonstrated Monday against construction of a Mormon study center that their rabbis claim will become a base for missionaries.
The protest opposite the construction site near the biblical Mount of Olives was one of the largest in a year-long campaign to stop the $15 million project. Armed Forces radio estimated the crowd at 10,000.
Demonstrators spread across the hillside of Mount Scopus, below the Hebrew University campus. They recited the daily afternoon prayer service, and listened to music and speeches by leading rabbis against the Mormon center.
Officials of Brigham Young University of Provo, Utah, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, have given repeated assurances that students and staff of the seven-story center will not be allowed to proselytize.
Orthodox activists dispute that. ″Everything they tell us is a lie,″ claimed Yitzhak Kolitz, chief rabbi of Jerusalem. The Mormons ″have no other purpose except to missionize,″ he said.
The protest organizers, an ad hoc coalition of religious groups, brought in busloads of supporters from around the country during the weeklong holiday of Passover, a customary season for Jewish pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres appointed a Cabinet committee to study the issue last December but it has been split on what, if any, action can be taken.
Yosef Burg, the religious affairs minister and committee chairman, said in a radio interview he will convene a meeting next week ″to see if we can reach a conclusion.″
Brigham Young University has rejected appeals to relinquish the Mount Scopus site and build on a location less sensitive for Jews.
Mount Scopus commands a view of the old walled city and Mount Moriah, where the Jewish temple stood in biblical times. Construction is to be completed late this year.