As protests took place Sunday over the removal of human remains found at a construction site at Barzilai hospital, several dozen hareidi-religious men found a creative way to get closer to the action. The men took two boats from the Ashkelon marina and attempted to reach the city by sea.
The attempt to reach Barzilai by sea came after police began turning back members of the Eda Hareidit, the main organization behind the Barzilai protest. The maiden voyage of the Eda Hareidit protest boat did not end in success; naval police spotted the vessels and ordered them to turn back or face arrest.
Human remains were uncovered at Barzilai as workers prepared to begin construction on a new emergency wing, which will be reinforced against rockets. Ashkelon was frequently attacked by Gaza terrorists during the months preceding Operation Cast Lead and during the security operation itself; the new wing is an effort to ensure that patients remain safe even if rocket fire were to resume.
The Eda Hareidit, and some other hareidi organizations, argued that the planned wing should be built on a different side of the hospital in order to respect the sanctity of the human remains found at the site.
Forty men were arrested at the demonstration outside Barzilai. They were taken to the Kiryat Gat Magistrates court, where Judge Ariel Chazak extended the remands of 17 of the protesters. The men demonstrated their refusal to recognize the secular court system by turning their backs to the judge and failing to identify themselves.
Meanwhile, protests began to spread to other cities. Several hareidi-religious men held a demonstration in Yafo (Jaffa) at a construction site where they said workers were disrupting Jewish tombs. In Jerusalem, several dozen men clashed with police in Kikar Shabbat, and a rally was held in the Geulah neighborhood.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was pleased with the news from Barzilai despite the protests. “Common sense is the victor here,” he said at a Labor party meeting. Barak credited Labor with pushing the government to continue the Barzilai project despite hareidi-religious opposition. “It's largely in our credit that the safety and the lives of residents of Israel's south won today,” he said.
Picture courtesy of Sochnut 24