The bridge at Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s grave
The bridge at Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s grave on Mount Meron in the Galilee being demolished, Jan. 19, 2012. Photo by Yaron Kaminski
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A bridge built illegally at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was demolished without incident on Thursday.

Some 100 policemen came to guard the operation, fearing violent ultra-Orthodox protests, but no demonstrators showed up and the demolition was completed in an hour.

The bridge was built to enable cohanim, members of the Jewish priestly caste, to access the popular site without passing a burial cave located on the regular path and thereby violating the religious prohibition against cohanim coming into contact with a dead body.

It was built without the necessary permits - even though the state encouraged its construction and even committed to paying half the NIS 500,000 cost.

The 300-meter long bridge was built from the rear of the grave along the side of the hill and the Meron Stream. The traditional route for the Cohanim was ruled out two and a half years ago when a Hassidic sect claimed the old path passed by ancient burial caves.

The Merom Galil Local Planning and Building Committee ordered the bridge destroyed as it was built without proper approval.

The state's participation in building the bridge received widespread coverage in ultra-Orthodox newspapers. The reports emphasized the cooperation between the state and the Hassidic sect Toldot Avraham Yitzhak, which demanded the building of the bridge. A petition to the Safed Magistrate's Court by the Hassidic group and 12 cohanim against the demolition order was rejected in mid-December.