Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 21, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Large Rally Protesting the Desecration of Caves in Haifa
by Aryeh Zisman

A large demonstration was held this past Monday (26 Shevat) in front of the Haifa municipality, protesting the desecration of the graves near the ancient cemetery of Haifa, where the Yaffo Beltway (Bypass) project is currently working.

On Monday, the archaeologists continued their "rescue digs" and damaged part of the inner burial cave. Avreichim and residents of Haifa arrived in the evening in order to gather the earth and the bones which had been removed from the cave and collect them in bags in preparation for their burial. The scenes on the sight were very shocking.

After Haifa mayor Amram Mitzna and the Yefeh Nof company, which is do the construction rejected the idea of postponing the work, the archaeologists continued to dig under the flight of stairs which will serve as an entrance to the underground tunnel and which will eventually be a passageway for pedestrians. Under the stairs, a burial large burial cave was discovered, which breaks off into a number of additional burial cavities. In the wake of the appeals of Rabbi Moshe Gafni to the director general of the Antiquities Authority, Shmuel Dorfman, and to the secretary of the government Yitzhak Herzog, the inner burial cavities were not dug up.

The representatives of the chareidi sector in the municipality were at a loss for what to do. UTJ's representative Rabbi Chaim Williger arrived on the site early in the morning, but was forced to wait for a long time until being allowed to enter. When he finally went inside, he saw a horrifying scene. Bones and earth had been removed from the front part of the cave on two levels at the sides of the entrance hall of the cave.

Had the Yefeh Nof company waited for official instructions regarding the conducting of the work, it would have been possible to receive the approval of the director general of the Antiquities Authority, Shmuel Dorfman, who was on his way from the United States to Israel, and to dig only up to the lid of the cave, without penetrating inside. In that manner all the inner graves would have been spared.

News of the desecration of the graves and the shocking scenes quickly spread to all of the kollelim in Haifa, and at the initiative of the chareidi rabbonim of the city a protest rally in front of the Haifa municipality was organized within an hour. Despite the short notice, many chareidim from all circles arrived.

At a stirring manifestation of kiddush Shem Shomayim, chapters of Tehillim were read and the prayer of R' Chaim Falaji regarding the desecration of graves was recited. The police who arrived on the scene stood by idly, because the rally was so orderly. The mayor, Amram Mitzna, against whom the protest was directed, did not go out to the demonstrators. UTJ's other representative, Rabbi Aryeh Blitental, coordinated all aspects of the rally and all of the talks with pertinent parties from his sick bed at home.

During the afternoon, Mitzna went down to the excavation site in the lower part of the city. He then said that on Tuesday, work would be conducted with an air hammer. Working that way is liable to endanger the inner complex of an additional cave which is outside the limits of the project. If the cave is damaged and opened the archaeologists will probably swoop down on it and desecrate it too. Mitzna did say that if the inner complex of the cave is not damaged by the air hammer, they should still refrain from conducting any digging there. But all this doesn't lessen the other awful deeds being perpetrated on the site.

On Monday evening, members of the Nachlas Halevi'im community arrived on the site to collect the many bones which lay scattered around the area. They worked carefully and meticulously, in order to find all of the bones and the earth which had been removed from the graves. Inspectors from the Federation for the Prevention of Graves remained on the site of the excavations the entire day, and based on their reports, the activists of the Federation went to the homes of the gedolei Yisroel and told them the shocking facts.


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