Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Haifa Excavations Postponed Due to Chareidi Pressure
by Aryeh Zisman

Excavation of graves from Talmudic times have been put on hold for now in Haifa. A large demonstration protesting the desecration of graves, supposed to have taken place on Sunday 4 Shevat, was postponed at the last minute when an agreement was reached stating that excavation would be postponed until halachic solutions could be found. These solutions, it was stipulated, would be formulated in conjunction with the Federation for the Prevention of the Desecration of Graves.

The protest rally was supposed to take place due to the refusal by the Yefeh Nof company -- an affiliate of the Haifa Municipality -- to refrain from excavations near the old cemetery on Yaffo Street. Tzaddikim and kedoshim, among them the amora Rav Avrimi demin Haifa and 300 rishonim from the Baalei Hatosfos including the Rash of Shantz, are buried on the site.

In the initial excavations, a number of burial caves were found that did not disturb the paving of the road. However on the edges of the old road an underground cave is due to be excavated, which would result in desecration of ancient graves.

UTJ representatives on Haifa's Municipal Council, Rabbi Chaim Williger and Rabbi Aryeh Blitental, together with Deputy Mayor Moshe Shtetman and Council Member Rabbi Avrohom Weitzman, prevailed upon Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna not to excavate on the site, and to coordinate the work with members of the Federation for the Prevention of Desecration to Graves.

At first, Mitzna agreed fully to comply with their requests. However, on the first of Shevat a meeting with the Yefeh Nof representatives was inconclusive, and work was slated to begin Sunday morning.

In large announcements posted in Haifa synagogues, the Federation issued a call to prevent the desecration, asking the public to come to the excavation site at 6 a.m. for a massive shacharis service. The Municipality was subsequently swamped with calls from the chareidi community asking that the excavations not take place.

The Federation for the Prevention of the Desecration of Graves also appealed to Mitzna personally, asking him to protect the residents of Haifa who lived there from the time of the Talmud until today, and to find a solution for the planned pedestrian tunnel that does not involve desecration of the graves of the ancient kedoshim. They asked him to respond to the cries of tens of thousands of Haifa residents who are pained by the desecration of the remains of our ancients. The announcements said that desecration of the bones of the ancients also constitutes a terrible danger to the entire city.

On Friday, representatives of the religious bloc in the Municipality announced that their request had been accepted, and that the excavations had been postponed for a week. The chareidi community is nonetheless continuing to keep an eye on developments and is prepared to prevent any attempt to conduct clandestine excavations. "We must be on constant alert," said one of the devoted activists who is patrolling the area.


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