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March 17, 1995 - Image 71

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-03-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Between 1992 and 1994, gov-
ernment archaeologists excavat-
ed the area and took away crates
of relics and bones from 4,000 to
nearly 2,000 years old. No signs
were found of Jewish graves,
such as gravestones with Ara-
maic inscriptions, while signs of
Christian graves, such as the
presence of burial tools, were dis-
covered, said Yossi Levy, chief ar-
chaeologist for the Antiquities
Authority's central region.
The bones were turned over to
the Religious Affairs Ministry for
burial. "There are no Jewish
graves there," said Mr. Levy.

Protecting Jewish
graves from
developers is high
on the haredi public
agenda.

Rabbi David Schmidel, head
of Atra Kadisha, does not trust
archaeologists. He suspects that
the Antiquities Authority spir-
its away the Jewish graves they
find. When he witnessed the au-
thority's excavations, Rabbi
Schmidel maintains, he saw ev-
idence that the bones belonged
to Jews: "They were buried ly-
ing on their backs." He allowed,
however, that some gentiles
might also bury their dead lying
on their backs.
"Pathetic," Mr. Levy said of
Rabbi Schmidel's claims. "These
are folk tales."
Asked if the haredim's con-
tentions have proven out in the
past, Professor Friedman replied,
"Many times."
In decades past, archaeologists
"deceived the public" by promis-
ing not to harm ancient Jewish
graves, then doing just that, he
said, citing the dig at Masada as
a prime example.
In other cases, he noted, the
haredim's claims proved baseless.
They were fighting to protect
Jewish graves that didn't exist.
But their suspicions will not be
allayed. "Archaeologists and the
Antiquities Authority have much
more sensitivity [about safe-
guarding Jewish graves] than
they had in the past, but it's too
late. They've lost all their credi-
bility with the haredim," Profes-
sor Friedman said.
Mr. Ilan and leading haredi
rabbis have sat long into the
night trying to reach a compro-
mise on the Andromeda Hill pro-
ject, without success. The
haredim's "offer" is that he stop
digging, cancel plans for an un-
derground parking lot, and build
only above ground, thus protect-
ing the alleged graves. Mr. Ilan
says this is impossible. People
won't pay $300,000 to $2 million
for an apartment without a park-
ing space, 0

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