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Palestinians protest wine festival at Beersheba mosque

Sept. 3, 2012 1:01 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 5, 2012 12:44 P.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Prominent Palestinian community members and MK's protested in Beersheba on Sunday against an upcoming wine festival due to be held in the courtyard of an Ottoman-era mosque, Israel's Haaretz reported.

"They do not let us pray in our holy places, they crush us. They do what they want and hurt the feelings of all Muslims. What kind of message are they sending? Imagine if such a thing happened in a Jewish synagogue," Knesset member of Palestinian origin Taleb al-Sana was quoted as saying.

The festival is due to be held on Wednesday and Thursday in a mosque courtyard.

Balad member Jamal Zakhalka said that holding the festival was a "barbaric act" and an insult to all Muslims.

Sheikh Hamas Abu Dabas, chairman of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, said the group would submit a court petition against the festival.

The Adalah legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel has also 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 in August.

Beersheba municipality said that the wine festival would take place in a square next to the mosque and is being held for the sixth consecutive year.

The mosque is a contentious site in Beersheba, with Israeli forces turning 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.
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