Archaeologists of the National Antiquities Authority last
week again wantonly desecrated an ancient Jewish burial cave
in Israel, this time on Shabbos, when they were certain that
their work would not be interrupted by chareidim who had been
trying to protect the site.
This most recent desecration took place in Kfar Arah, near Um-
El-Fachem, a large Arab city in north Shomron. The cave was
discovered almost two months ago by a firm that was laying a
telephone cable in the area. The graves were in no way
interfering with the cable, and the firm contacted the
Authority simply to ask the Authority to seal and re-cover
the cave so that the graves inside would remain
When the Authority refused to do so, and indicated its intent
to conduct a "rescue dig" in the cave, the firm notified the
Burial Department of the Ministry of Religions, whose
officials told the Authority that the Ministry of Religions
objects to any such digging. Officials in the Burial
Department asked that the Authority cooperate in sealing and
covering the cave, as the firm had requested, but the
Authority remained adamant, and continued its plans to
excavate the cave.
When Burial Department's efforts fell on deaf ears, community
activists were notified who also tried to dissuade the
Authority from desecrating the site. The Organization for the
Prevention of Grave Desecrations was alerted as well, but on
Shabbos night, Dec. 1, the Authority sent in a team of
archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, who began the dig
under the cover of darkness, while the religious activists
were occupied with the Shabbos. The next morning, the
archaeologists continued their desecration, of the gravesite
and of the Shabbos, without any activists knowing about
The number of graves, however, was larger than expected, and
the Tel Aviv University team was not able to empty all of the
graves of their bones on Shabbos. The archaeologists, in
fact, resumed their digging on the following Wednesday.
This is not the first time that the Authority has used the
Shabbos as a "safe" time to desecrate ancient Jewish
gravesites in Israel.
As a result of the incident, the Organization for the
Prevention of Grave Desecrations made an impassioned plea to
Yitzchak Levi, who heads the Ministry of Education which has
jurisdiction over the Authority. Levi was asked to cut off
funds to the Authority, or try any other means at his
disposal to stop the Authority from carrying out its
continued illegal attacks on gravesites.
"It simply cannot be tolerated that the Antiquity Authority
is given prizes for wantonly destroying ancient burial sites
all across the country," the activist organization said.
At the Organization for the Prevention of Grave Desecrations,
concern is now being expressed about another ancient Jewish
burial cave, this one in Nachalas Yehuda, near the city of
Rishon LeZion. This cave, also discovered about two months
ago, is still intact, but the Authority has begun to make
moves which indicate that the archaeologists are planning to
desecrate these graves, too.
At this time, the Authority has halted all construction in
the area, pending its so-called "investigation" as to whether
a "rescue dig" is necessary to save "archaeological
artifacts" from destruction. Activists have made an appeal to
people in the area to volunteer to guard the site, and notify
them if the archaeologists are seen approaching the cave.