Barzilai's bomb shelter
Barzilai's bomb shelterIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met the Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) Tuesday evening and informed him that the bomb-fortified emergency room at Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital would be built in the location originally set aside for it, despite UTJ's demand to have it moved.

The relocation of the ER came up for debate after ancient graves were found at the construction site. While most of rabbis consulted on the matter said the graves could be moved, UTJ and Litzman were obliged to follow a ruling by several leading Ashkenazi rabbis who said that the emergency room, not the graves, had to be relocated. The government complied with UTJ's demands, fearing a coalition crisis, but also appointed a senior-level committee to reexamine the matter.

This decision caused an uproar because it would have involved a serious delay in the construction of the ER, which would keep patients safe from injury even if it were hit by an enemy rocket. The government was portrayed as preferring the dignity of the long-dead over the safety of living people.

The Prime Minister informed Litzman that he could not go ahead with relocating the ER, because a consensus had formed against it among the senior figures in the medical community. Litzman, for his part, said that UTJ stands behind its decision to oppose the idea of moving the graves and building the ER on the original site. However, political sources estimated that UTJ will not bolt the coalition.