Hundreds Protest Desecration of Graves; Dozens Arrested

Some 300 hareidi-religious Jews demonstrated at Highway 6 construction sites in the north yesterday, protesting against the desecration of Jewish graves from the Second Temple period.

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At one site, approximately 100 demonstrators held a protest prayer near the planned highway route not far from Kibbutz Regavim. The prayer service held up the paving works.

Some four busloads of people were turned back on their way to the rally. Some 30 people on one of the buses, in which were found tires ready for burning, were arrested and taken to the Gelilot police station. Another 130 people were detained and then released. At one of the protests, police were aided by hired guards - at least one of whom was photographed and shown on national television using electrict shockers to "quell" the protest.

Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit (Likud) had sharp words for the demonstrators. "The hareidim are the ones who are not acting according to the law," he said, "and are demonstrating just for the sake of demonstrating. What do they expect, that we'll stop everything just because of a grave?"

Sheetrit said that graves were removed two weeks ago. A spokesman for the hareidim contacted by Arutz-7, however, said that many more graves still remain.

"With a little good will, the problem could easily be solved," said Aharon Y. of Zikhron
Yaakov. "There is a solution that has been used in many places - including on Shmuel HaNavi St. in Jerusalem, and even in Cairo, Egypt - and that is to build two roofs over the graves. It costs a little extra, but there is a group called Atra Kadisha that has helped out in these situations."

Sheetrit ignored this possibility, telling the Ynet news site, "I would like to [have] their agreement, but now there is no other choice. We talked with them, we have no argument with them, but they are demonstrating just for the sake of demonstrating. No grave is being harmed. This is violence, and violence must not win."

Asked how he knows that Jews were buried in the graves, Aharon said, "There are many signs - Jewish decorations, and the fact that the bones were buried in the 'likut atzamot' style. Your question reminds me of the time when an archaeologist once told me that some graves were of Arabs because the feet were pointing to Mecca; when I asked him how old he thinks the graves are, he said, 'Oh, about 2,000 years' - well before Islam was even founded..."

Aharon explained that it is forbidden by Jewish Law in all but extreme cases to remove bodies from their graves. Asked why his group is not protesting against the planned removal of some 50 bodies from their graves in Gush Katif, he said, "When there is a fear that the graves will be desecrated, they may be removed. Certainly in this case there is great concern that this would happen if the bodies are not relocated from Gush Katif."

A-7: "But your party - Degel HaTorah [a faction of United Torah Judaism] - enabled this plan to go through in the first place, when it joined the government a number of months ago and prevented it from falling?"

Aharon: "That was a different issue, one that only the rabbis - some say only the Sanhedrin - can decide. It's a question of whether it is more life-threatening to remain in Gush Katif, or to leave there. In any event, once it has been decided to leave Gush Katif, the graves must be removed."

The Coastal Region Police District is dealing with the daily protests, which have been going on in varying scales for some three weeks. One police spokesman said that the protests are preventing them from fighting their routine war against crime.

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