Acre dig finds proof that site wasn't Jewish graveyard
A day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intervened in a crisis over the archaeological dig near the train junction in Acre, another monument was discovered at the scene proving the area was a Roman graveyard without the presence of any Jewish graves whatsoever.
Work under way at the site is meant to create a safety barrier between the Acre-Safed road and the railroad tracks, and some NIS 15 million has been spent so far on the project, including moving the road temporarily.
Archaeological finds were discovered on the scene six months ago, and construction of the new, safe junction was halted as the Antiquities Authority attempted to rescue the archaeological finds, which indicated that the site had been a large cemetery previously unknown to archaeologists.
Archaeologist Yotam Tepper from the Antiquities Authority said that Acre was founded around 50 CE by veterans of the Roman Army, and apparently the site was the town cemetery for civilians and soldiers. The Roman city existed until 300 CE. So far, all the findings have been pagan.
Last Friday an unusual marble monument find was uncovered, and yesterday - a day after Sharon's intervention at the request of ultra-Orthodox who were convinced that the bones being uncovered belonged to Jews - the monument was cleaned and discovered to be the tomb of Legionnaire Olfius Martinos, of the Seventh Claudian Legion.
A source in the Antiquities Authority said yesterday that what was amusing about the monument is that ultra-Orthodox Jews and their political allies are fighting against archaeological investigations of legionnaires who oppressed the Bar Kochba rebellion and killed tens of thousands of Jews.
Heavy political pressure from ultra-Orthodox circles has been applied to Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit to cease the archaeological dig for fear of finding Jewish graves. The dig was briefly halted by Sheetrit, but professional opinions, including one from Bar Ilan University, that there were no Jewish graves at the site did not satisfy the ultra-Orthodox. Now the ultra-Orthodox are demanding a NIS 25 million bridge at the junction to raise the road above the alleged Jewish graves, postponing completion of the project by as much as three years.
The prime minister's intervention ordering the archaeological dig halted for three weeks came after the ultra-Orthodox announced plans for a Sunday demonstration in Jerusalem against the dig. Some political sources say the cessation of the archaeological dig was also connected to the votes in the Knesset on the disengagement and the budget.