Vilnius, Lithuania - In a step which has won international praise, the Lithuanian government ditched plans to allocate funds for the 2021 budget that were to be allocated towards the development of the Sports Palace Conference Center. The construction was earmarked to take place on one the city's more meaningful landmarks, the Shnipishok Jewish cemetery.
World leaders and groups praised the decision by Seimas, after the Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda signed the 2021 budget bill into law.
Mr. Dov Fried, Chairman of the Save Vilna coalition said, "The decision to scrap the allocation is highly commendable. It's a great step forward. We are looking forward to additional steps by the government to burying this horrendous project."
Jewish organizations from across the globe rallied to protest against the planned desecration of the Jewish cemetery. The Shnipishok cemetery is the site which is also the ground on which the Vilna Gaon was initially buried.
Ironically 2020 was crowned by the Lithuanian government as the Year of the Vilna Gaon, the same year in which the government nixed the budget allocation for the controversial development. Some Jewish spiritual leaders believe that it was the Vilna Gaon who came to their rescue as an agent, to protect members of his family and his students, who still lie buried on this holy site.
Economists are unanimous in admitting that budgeting for expenditure of a conference center in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, would have been irresponsible. Others point out that this is a government of the people, a government that is interested in protecting human rights, a forward thinking authority that has the best interests of the nation at heart.
Mr. Fried has indicated that he would like to see the ground restored to its former glory, as it potentially could attract thousands of Jewish tourists and historical enthusiasts, making Vilnius a sought after international hub.
Mr. Fried has the support of several interest groups in the Lithuanian Parliament, many that expressed dissatisfaction to the conference center development. Multiple independent polls showed a high level of opposition to the ill-conceived plan.
Scrapping the budget allocation to develop the conference center, was a step forward to achieving consensus and ditching a plan that never should have been inked in the first instance.