Atra Kadisha protests
Atra Kadisha protests Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Rabbis' Forum of the 'Nation and Land Task Force' issued a sharp statement against the leaders of the hareidi groups protesting removal of the human remains in Ashkelon.

The hareidi-religious Atra Kadisha group has organized widespread protests in Jerusalem, Ashkelon and elsewhere against the digging-up of the graves. The graves are being relocated in the framework of a “compromise” with those who wished to prevent the expansion of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon in the area of the graves.

Archaeologists and others wrote that the graves were most likely those of non-Jews, regarding whom the Jewish laws of “honoring the dead” are strict, but not as strict as for Jewish corpses.

Despite these findings, the protest organizers issued announcements against the “cruel removal by the Zionists of the graves of our forefathers and rabbis, may their memories protect us, in the city of Ashkelon in order to build upon them some hospital.”

The Nation and Land Task Force issued a counter-response recalling the events in Gush Katif of five years ago: “Part of the hareidi public, primarily Atra Kadisha, who cooperated with the uprooting of Jewish graves from Gush Katif and did not raise an outcry – they are the ones responsible for the desecration of the graves at Barzilai. Five years ago, when we turned personally to Atra Kadisha for help in the struggle against the transfer of the Gush Katif graves, they ignored us and lent their hand to the desecration of the graves of the holy Jews in Gush Katif. This harsh precedent weakened the demand to preserve ancient graves in Israel and around the world.”

Some 30 hareidi protestors were briefly arrested or detained last night and this morning during the various demonstrations. The uprooting of the graves was broadcast over the internet on the Israel Antiquities Authority site, until Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman heard of it and asked that it be stopped.

Criticism of the "Calm" Hareidi Media

Atra Kadisha had criticism of the mainstream hareidi press for its coverage of the events. The hareidi group did not like the use of the following “dry” phrases in the reports: “The police are blocking,” “the police are arresting,” “the archaeologists are removing,” etc. “The reports should condemn them and express shock and trembling at these criminal acts,” Atra Kadisha writes, “but they unfortunately are so deep into the impurity that they can’t even condemn the Zionists, etc.”  

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