Dispute disrupts reopening of revered Jerusalem archaeological site
JERUSALEM, June 27: France reopened a revered but long-closed archaeological site in the heart of Jerusalem on Thursday, but a dispute over access immediately disrupted its reopening.
France, the owner of the site known as the Tomb of the Kings, reopened it to visits after having kept it closed since 2010. But concerns that it would become more of a site of religious pilgrimage than an archaeological one immediately reemerged.
Around 15 people who had pre-registered online as required were allowed to visit, but a group of more than a dozen ultra-Orthodox Jews who consider the site holy pressed to enter and pray there despite not having followed procedures.
They were prevented from entering since French officials had limited visits to 15 people at once during set times due to the sensitivity of the site.
Ultra-Orthodox denied access pressed toward the gate when it was opened to try to enter.
The first group of visitors was initially blocked inside and eventually exited through a second gate, accompanied by police. The incident highlighted concerns over the site and may bring into question whether it will remain open to the public. France's Jerusalem consulate had said in advance that the reopening would take place under pre-arranged rules. -AFP