Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5761 - April 18, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











It's the Law: Bury the Bones in the Cellars of the Tel Aviv University
by Betzalel Kahn

The Federation for the Prevention of the Desecration of Graves demands that the hundreds of crates of bones discovered in the basements of the Tel Aviv University be transferred to the Religious Affairs Ministry for immediate burial. This demand was made after it became clear that the university has not honored the promise given two years ago arrange for their burial.

Two years ago (in the issue of parshas Devorim 5759- 1999), Yated Ne'eman published documented reports that hundreds of crates of ancient bones which were exhumed in various archaeological digs throughout the country are shamefully stored in degrading conditions in a guarded and protected cellar in Tel Aviv University's Department for Medical Studies on its campus in Ramat Aviv. It was also learned that these bones are the objects of diverse and strange scientific studies.

There are indications that the anthropologists of the Antiquities Authority visit the cellar quite often. In addition, it was learned that human bones are supplied to various researchers for "examinations," and studies are conducted on them in the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Abu-Khabir. By the same token, it was discovered that human bones are even shipped abroad to many countries in the world for research purposes.

Many complaints were filed with the Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein over the past two years, but he never directed the police to investigate, even though the University is clearly in violation of the law. Moreover, many crates that were documented subsequently disappeared from the Antiquities Authority's cellars throughout the country and were apparently transferred to secret hiding places.

Two years ago in the matter of the boxes in the cellar of Tel Aviv University, there was a settlement involving the Police and arbitrated by Rabbi Moshe Gafni and other prominent activists, and also approved by the gedolei Yisroel. According to the terms of this settlement, the crates were supposed to be brought to burial, thus precluding the need for a police investigation.

After the disclosure of the affair, the activists involved in the prevention of the desecration of graves hired a special investigative and detective team which followed the archaeologists, photographed and documented the evidence, and also spoke with students and university employees. Thus, over a long period, much information validating all of the grim facts was compiled. It also became clear that despite its promises, the University still hasn't transferred hundreds of crates of bones for burial.

Last week, in the wake of solid information about the existence of hundreds of crates of human bones which have not been brought to burial, and after repeated attempts to get the University to keep its promises, a group of prominent rabbonim and avreichim from Bnei Brak arrived in the large cellar of the Tel Aviv University in order to protest the storing of human bones in violation of the law. At the initiative of Rabbi Moshe Gafni, the group asked to meet with the custodians of the large warehouse. Concomitantly, they asked to photograph and document the activities in the cellar.

Tel Aviv University claims that it lacks sufficient manpower to transfer the bones for burial. "The agreement signed with the chareidim has been in effect during the past two years to the satisfaction of all the sides participating in this endeavor, whose main objective is the sorting and burying of human bones," Professor Yisrael Hershkowitz, a professor of anatomy in the Tel Aviv University, said.

Rabbi Gafni, who discussed the issue on the media this past Sunday (22 Nisan), sharply attacked the heads of the University for keeping tens of thousands of human bones in their cellars in violation of the law and their promise -- bones which still haven't been brought to burial according to the halocho. "The documentation and clear, unequivocal data indicate that thousands of crates of bones are located in those cellars, some of which have been there for many years. All this is unthinkable from every possible point of view. It is unthinkable from an educational aspect, from a Jewish aspect, and surely from a legal one," Rabbi Gafni asserted.

Rabbi Gafni added that the demonstration which took place last week was called after it was learned that the head of the department in the University wanted to send human bones abroad for research purposes. "We asked him not to remove them from the area, because according to the law, the bones must be brought to burial. Sadly, the police are dawdling in this matter, even though it is in total violation of the law."


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