Above: Atra Kadisha supporters protesting the Toldos Aharon Rebbe on a visit to Williamsburg, Brooklyn several years ago. The Rebbe did not agree with Atra Kadisha's attempt to stop construction of a different housing complex in Beit Shemesh.
Shas Unites With Haredi Graves Extortion Group To Stop Excavation Of Jerusalem Archeological Site
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Threats and pressure from haredi political parties caused the Israel Antiquities Authority to halt its excavation of ancient burial caves in the Gilo neighborhood of southern Jerusalem, Ha’aretz reported.
The area is where the burial caves are located is slated to become a new residential area, Gilo Slopes West, with 708 apartments that will be heavily occupied by haredim. The archaeological excavations, standard for every new build in key areas of the country like Jerusalem, would delay the construction.
Gilo Slopes West is located on the other side of the green line from Israel proper. The US and other western nations oppose Israeli building on the site as a result.
115 shafts containing graves have so far been found at the site by state archeologists. Most appear to be empty and were likely robbed before pre-construction work and the excavations began.
Members of the often violent haredi “graves protection” organization Atra Kadisha protested at the site today causing Antiquities Authority personnel working at the site to pack up and leave. Atra Kadisha is closely linked to the vehemently anti-Zionist Edah Haredit haredi umbrella organization. It has a long history of violence and extortion which was extensively exposed by Israeli news media over the past several years. Even so, Atra Kadisha’s leaders and key activists have not been prosecuted.
Minister of the Development of the Negev Aryeh Deri of the Sefardi haredi Shas Party asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the archeological excavations at the site earlier this week, citing concerns that archeologists would desecrate the graves. Deri reportedly asked Netanyahu to order Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin to stop the archeologists from working at the site until a solution conforming to halakha (Orthodox Jewish law) could be found to protect the graves from any desecration. According to the Shas Party, Netanyahu granted Deri’s request.
The Antiquities Authority reportedly decided to stop all excavations at the site today because of Deri’s deal with Netanyahu, not just because of its fears of Atra Kadisha violence.
Haredi sources say a compromise was proposed in which the buildings would be built on pillars, not on a standard foundation, and the what would have been the first two floors of the buildings would be open air space. This would allow the buildings to be occupied by haredim without violating most haredi understandings of halakha.
The developers reportedly agreed, but only on condition the Construction Ministry compensate them for the extra costs involved and for the loss of sales of two floors of each apartment building. The Construction Ministry refused..
Ofer Ayoubi, the head of Gilo’s community administration, was fed up with the squabbling over the site and took his own action.
“I asked Atra Kadisha to inform the ultra-Orthodox purchasers that they were going to be living above graves. I will make every effort not to hurt the feelings of others, and at the same time to allow construction in Gilo to continue,” Ayoubi said.