Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Church of Scotland Building on a Jewish Cemetery in Tiveria

Tiveria is again the site of a struggle over the sanctity and dignity of ancient graves. Once again the cry goes out to leave the bones of our ancestors in peace.

There is no question that the site, now owned by the Church of Scotland, was a Jewish cemetery up until 300 years ago, about a century after the Church of Scotland was founded by John Knox. Up until then, for many years the area had served as the burial ground for the holy Jews who lived in the area, one of Judaism's four holy cities in Israel.

About three centuries ago Jewish settlement in Tiveria underwent a revival, and a new cemetery was founded that is still in use today. The old one fell into disuse and was bought and sold several times until the current owners acquired it. The Church of Scotland built a small hospice in the cemetery, and recently decided to embark on a much more ambitious $20 million development scheme to renovate their hospice and to build a 140 room hotel.

Unfortunately, the plans were filed and approved following normal procedures and no one realized the problem. It was only after construction began and, according to the Church of Scotland, a substantial sum was already invested, that it was discovered that the area is full of graves. The Antiquities Authority heard about it and demanded to conduct "rescue digs." The Church at first tried to prevent this, but the Authority prevailed.

At this point the Committee for the Prevention of Desecration of Graves also entered the picture and tried to secure the cooperation of the Church of Scotland in order to find a way to avoid desecration of the graves, whether through construction or by the "rescue" digging. They appealed to various members of the church hierarchy, but met only outright rejection. Ironically, when they pointed out to the Church that in Scotland it is illegal to build in a cemetery, they were told curtly, "But the law is different in Israel and we are allowed to built there."

Intensive efforts are continuing to prevent the digging and the construction. The city of Tiveria has offered the church an alternate site, but the Church rejected that as well. Apparently the main objection is the expense involved in redesigning at the new site. At the current site, according to an archaeologist of the Ministry of Education, "there is not one centimeter that has no graves."

The problem of desecration of ancient graves is chronic in the State of Israel. The State and its institutions have little sympathy for the rights of dead Jews, and it is left to the chareidi community to struggle, alone, for the elemental respect that our ancestors deserve.

Maran the Steipler and ylct"a Maran HaRav Shach, shlita, wrote on one of the many other occasions that the issue arose: "Woe to us that this has happened in our day, and sinners have the audacity to desecrate the graves of our forefathers, and thereby put the entire Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel in danger, as explained in the words of Chazal. Therefore we issue this heartfelt call to everyone who can do something, to warn and prevent in a timely fashion this despicable act, so that their plans are not executed . . . "

As the rabbonim said last week: "It is a holy obligation upon all the tzibbur to . . . do whatever they can . . . and to pray before our Creator that He have mercy upon His people and his inheritance and that their plans are not executed."

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.