Despite desperate attempts by dozens of avreichim to
physically obstruct the destruction of a Jewish grave site
discovered along the route of the Trans-Israel Highway in the
Binyamina Region, archaeologists from the Antiquities
Authority, accompanied by a massive police presence, razed
two burial caves near Kibbutz Regavim. According to Degel
HaTorah the destruction of the ancient graves was a flagrant
violation of the coalition agreement and of directives issued
by the Attorney General.
Several months ago sealed burial caves were found along
segment number 18 of Highway 6 (Trans-Israel Highway) in the
Northern Region that is currently under construction as the
road is extended northward. An inspection by the Society for
the Prevention of Grave Desecration found that the graves are
unquestionably Jewish. Environmental organizations seeking to
preserve nature and the local landscape also joined the
fight. Although a tunnel could be built below the problematic
area, road construction company Derech Eretz has refused to
entertain any alternative solutions.
Last week company workers began to excavate the area around
the graves in order to thwart the possibility of building a
tunnel in the future. Pleading by activists from the Society
for the Prevention of Grave Desecration and green
organizations fell on deaf ears.
Monday, with a police escort, Derech Eretz began to destroy
the grave site itself with no consideration for the honor of
the Jewish bodies lying buried for hundreds of years.
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni and other public figures contacted
various government officials and environmental organizations
to demand an immediate halt to the construction work at the
site and an alternative way to build the road but on Monday
Antiquities Authority workers proceeded with their plans. "It
was an appalling sight," says an activist for the Association
for the Prevention of Grave Desecration. "Using pickaxes the
archaeologists destroyed the bones that were inside the
burial caves in a despicable and shocking manner, casting
them on the ground like manure."
The archaeologists continued at their task despite the dozens
of protesters at the site, who were beaten ruthlessly when
they tried to approach the caves. Several arrests were
Later inspectors from the Association for the Prevention of
Grave Desecration were permitted to gather the hundreds of
bones, which they placed in special plastic bags for
reburial. However the moment the bags were laid down near the
caves to be taken away, tractors operating nearby totally
destroyed the bags and the bones inside.
Early this week numerous public figures asked Transportation
Minister Meir Shetreet to intercede but he did not lift a
finger to halt the grave desecration. Minister Shetreet later
denied allegations that he told his deputy, Rabbi Shmuel
Halpert, that he alone would set ministry policy and the
policy of the ministry is to destroy graves. Shetreet claimed
this is not the ministry's policy, but chareidi public
figures attacked the Transportation Minister on Monday for
his reticence in the matter.
On Monday MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni wrote a letter to Minister
Shetreet to demand he put an immediate stop to the digging
commissioned by the Transportation Ministry and the Trans-
Israel Highway. Rabbi Gafni called the construction work "an
incursion on the burial caves, graves and human bones in
violation of the law, the Attorney General's directives and
the coalition agreement, which states, `Out of concern for
the honor of the dead it shall be determined that in a place
where graves or human bones are discovered continued work at
the site will proceed according to an arrangement set by the
government [and] subject to the law.'"
In the letter Rabbi Gafni writes that he sees "this serious
and inhumane endeavor as a flagrant violation of the
coalition agreement and an act not in accordance with the law
and civilized mores. All this is in addition to the harm to
the landscape, which all public bodies and the lobby of
Knesset Members for the Environment oppose."
Rabbi Gafni has been active in environmental matters for
years. He is a member of the Knesset lobby and even won an
award for his efforts.