Unpaid electric bill makes holy site go dark

AP News
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Posted: Apr 06, 2011 4:56 PM
Unpaid electric bill makes holy site go dark

It's a lesson that the rabbis who manage one of Israel's most popular Jewish pilgrimage destinations have now learned the hard way: Even holy sites have to pay the electric bill.

The tomb of Moses Maimonides, one of Judaism's pre-eminent sages, has been plunged into darkness because of a debt to the electricity company totaling $11,500.

Rabbi Israel Deri, one of the managers of the site in the Galilee city of Tiberias, admitted Wednesday that the bill "fell between the cracks." As a result, the tomb _ where people come to pray around the clock _ is now closed to night visitors.

"We accumulated a debt. We didn't pay. And we're working on it," Deri said. Signs at the entrance announce that the site is closed at night "due to a power glitch."

Maimonides, known in Hebrew as the Rambam, was a 12th century Jewish sage and medical doctor. Born in Cordoba, Spain around 1138, he wrote famous works of Jewish law, philosophy and medicine.

He died in Cairo in 1204. According to Jewish tradition, his remains were later reburied in Tiberias, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Though Maimonides was a rationalist who scorned superstition and the sanctification of human beings or their remains, his tomb nonetheless draws many devout.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Electric Corporation, Orna Vagman, said the company "had no other choice but to disconnect the electricity" at the site because of a debt accrued over "many months."