It seems that there is broad support -- and almost universal
sympathy -- for the goal of bringing the sailors who died
when the ill-fated Dakar submarine sank over 31 years ago to
a Jewish burial. No sooner was the wreck found less than two
weeks ago, than calls were heard to raise it, mainly to bring
the remains of the 69 sailors on board to a decent burial --
"kever Yisrael" as it is called in the Hebrew press.
Though the wreckage lies in 2900 meters of water -- more than
a mile and a half below the surface -- and it broke into
three parts from its three kilometer fall through the water,
many voices were raised asking the government to spare no
expense to raise the ship, for the primary reason of burying
the remains. "Israel must make every effort, and pay any
price, no matter how high it is, in order to raise the
submarine and bring its crew home." This is a quotation from
the lead editorial last Sunday in the mass circulation
Israeli daily Ma'ariv. Though not everyone agreed with
this approach, there was universal sympathy for it.
Even then it was known that the price could be very high. In
the only comparable case on record, at the height of the Cold
War the United States raised a Soviet submarine for its
intelligence value. Even then the water was only about half
as deep and the expenses ran very high -- reportedly into
billions of dollars!
In truth, the value attached to giving a proper burial to the
remains of those who die is deeply etched into the Israeli
soul. The Army makes unusual efforts to recover the remains
of its fallen, and has often paid a considerable price for
its sensitivities in this area. However, no one questioned
these efforts or their cost.
The dead in this case were from more than 31 years ago, but
that did not apparently lessen the impact and the
understanding for it was widespread. But when we go back a
little further, to the dead of hundreds of years ago, the
situation is entirely different.
When we struggle to preserve the graves of generations past,
we are branded as a primitive and dark force that wants to
block the progress of enlightened science. We are denounced
and vilified, and the press has not the slightest doubt that
we are entirely in the wrong.
The truth is that we have nothing against archaeological
research. On the contrary, no one is more interested than we
in insights into the history and way of life of our
ancestors. We are always eager to connect to our heritage and
grateful for any additional information about our forebears
and their lives.
What we are against is the cruel and heartless grave robbing
that crushes and scatters the bones of good people who rested
in peace for hundreds or thousands of years, or stores them
unnecessarily and illegally for years in cellars in Tel Aviv
and Yerushalayim. We have reported about this in the past,
and expect to publish more along these lines in the
Why is a State and a society that is so sensitive to the dead
of 31 years ago, so heartless when it comes to the dead of
1,000 years ago?