Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Archaeologists Desecrate Jewish Graves Under The Cover of Shabbos

By B. Kahn and A. Zisman

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 undisturbed.

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 it.

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.


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