Lithuanian PM: Israel Not Worried by Vilnius Sports Palace Renovation Project

Lithuanian PM: Israel Not Worried by Vilnius Sports Palace Renovation Project

VILNIUS, September 9, BNS – Israel has no objections to a project to renovate the Vilnius Concert and Sports Palace in central Vilnius located beside graves from the old Jewish cemetery, Lithuanian prime minister Algirdas Butkevičius says.

The issue was high on the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

“No, he gave no critical remarks whatsoever – the prime minister said he had recently received the information and was fully familiar with it. I said we wanted to get this done and would not make any decisions or start any tasks before prior agreement with the Jewish Community of Lithuania or the international organization for preservation of Jewish cemeteries that had come to Lithuania. He was clear – this is very good,” Butkevičius told BNS in a telephone interview from Jerusalem Tuesday evening.

The Lithuanian PM said he briefed Netanyahu on the Lithuanian Government’s plans to build a memorial on the grounds of the former Šnipiškės ceremony.

The Government intends to buy the Vilnius Concert and Sports Palace for public use as a conference and congress facility. In early June the Government listed the project as a state priority. Once completed, the center would be leased to an operator for one decade. Negotiations are taking place with the owners of the building and the land.

At the end of August, some Orthodox Jewish rabbis urged the Lithuanian Government to call off the renovation project, saying it could have a negative impact on the graves under the former Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the London-based Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, however, say they do not object to the project, claiming it will have not touch the Jewish graves.

The Jewish cemetery operated from the 1500s to the early 1800s.