RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Chief Islamic judge Sheikh Yusef Ideis on Tuesday criticized plans to hold a wine and beer festival at an Ottoman-era mosque in Beersheba.
Ideis said in a statement that holding the festival at the site was a violation of international norms and a provocation to Muslims.
The mosque is a contentious site in the southern Israeli town. Israeli forces turned the building into a prison in 1948. Rights groups and the Islamic Committee appealed to Israel's high court in 2002 to resume worship at the mosque. After a decade-long battle, the high court ruled that the site should be turned into an Islamic museum.
In June 2012, UN special rapporteur Frank La Rue recommended that Beersheba municipal authorities implement the court's decision and also allow Muslims to pray at the mosque "to allow the Muslim community to collectively express and maintain their culture and religion" in a report to the UN General Assembly.
Sheikh Ideis urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the UN and human rights groups to intervene and prevent the festival, planned for Sept. 5 - 6, and said serving alcohol at the site desecrated the mosque.
The Adalah legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel has appealed to Israel's Attorney General to prevent the wine and beer festival
"The use of the courtyard of the Mosque for drinking alcohol is a red line banned in Islam, and is completely incompatible with the mosque’s intended use for prayer," Adalah lawyer Aram Mahameed wrote to the Attorney General.