Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5765 - April 13, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Archaeologists Wantonly Raze Ancient Burial Caves for Work on Trans-Israel Highway

By Betzalel Kahn

Despite desperate attempts by dozens of avreichim to physically obstruct the destruction of a Jewish grave site discovered along the route of the Trans-Israel Highway in the Binyamina Region, archaeologists from the Antiquities Authority, accompanied by a massive police presence, razed two burial caves near Kibbutz Regavim. According to Degel HaTorah the destruction of the ancient graves was a flagrant violation of the coalition agreement and of directives issued by the Attorney General.

Several months ago sealed burial caves were found along segment number 18 of Highway 6 (Trans-Israel Highway) in the Northern Region that is currently under construction as the road is extended northward. An inspection by the Society for the Prevention of Grave Desecration found that the graves are unquestionably Jewish. Environmental organizations seeking to preserve nature and the local landscape also joined the fight. Although a tunnel could be built below the problematic area, road construction company Derech Eretz has refused to entertain any alternative solutions.

Last week company workers began to excavate the area around the graves in order to thwart the possibility of building a tunnel in the future. Pleading by activists from the Society for the Prevention of Grave Desecration and green organizations fell on deaf ears.

Monday, with a police escort, Derech Eretz began to destroy the grave site itself with no consideration for the honor of the Jewish bodies lying buried for hundreds of years.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni and other public figures contacted various government officials and environmental organizations to demand an immediate halt to the construction work at the site and an alternative way to build the road but on Monday Antiquities Authority workers proceeded with their plans. "It was an appalling sight," says an activist for the Association for the Prevention of Grave Desecration. "Using pickaxes the archaeologists destroyed the bones that were inside the burial caves in a despicable and shocking manner, casting them on the ground like manure."

The archaeologists continued at their task despite the dozens of protesters at the site, who were beaten ruthlessly when they tried to approach the caves. Several arrests were made.

Later inspectors from the Association for the Prevention of Grave Desecration were permitted to gather the hundreds of bones, which they placed in special plastic bags for reburial. However the moment the bags were laid down near the caves to be taken away, tractors operating nearby totally destroyed the bags and the bones inside.

Early this week numerous public figures asked Transportation Minister Meir Shetreet to intercede but he did not lift a finger to halt the grave desecration. Minister Shetreet later denied allegations that he told his deputy, Rabbi Shmuel Halpert, that he alone would set ministry policy and the policy of the ministry is to destroy graves. Shetreet claimed this is not the ministry's policy, but chareidi public figures attacked the Transportation Minister on Monday for his reticence in the matter.

On Monday MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni wrote a letter to Minister Shetreet to demand he put an immediate stop to the digging commissioned by the Transportation Ministry and the Trans- Israel Highway. Rabbi Gafni called the construction work "an incursion on the burial caves, graves and human bones in violation of the law, the Attorney General's directives and the coalition agreement, which states, `Out of concern for the honor of the dead it shall be determined that in a place where graves or human bones are discovered continued work at the site will proceed according to an arrangement set by the government [and] subject to the law.'"

In the letter Rabbi Gafni writes that he sees "this serious and inhumane endeavor as a flagrant violation of the coalition agreement and an act not in accordance with the law and civilized mores. All this is in addition to the harm to the landscape, which all public bodies and the lobby of Knesset Members for the Environment oppose."

Rabbi Gafni has been active in environmental matters for years. He is a member of the Knesset lobby and even won an award for his efforts.


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