29 Haredim Arrested as Riots Over Ancient Graves Spread From Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem

Protesters hurl rocks and shatter windows to demonstrate anger over construction plans they claim desecrate a holy site.

Twenty-nine ultra-Orthodox Jewish men were arrested in the city of Ramat Beit Shemesh on Monday as protests at a construction site they say contains ancient Jewish graves turned violent.

Rioters set fire in a grove of trees near the site, and hurled rocks at firefighters called in to contain the flames.

The rioting spread to Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem including Mea She’arim, where protesters blocked traffic on a main thoroughfare and at least one side street with blazing trash collection bins.

Nearby, protesters threw rocks at buses, breaking their windows, after which the police diverted traffic from the area.

Hundreds of homes are planned for the site, known as the “Golovencic compound,” and some of the apartments have already been purchased by young Haredi couples.

But last year Atra Kadisha, a group that fights construction where ancient graves have been found, determined that there were ancient Jewish graves at the site and called for an end to work at the site. The rabbis of the extremist Eda Haredit movement backed up the group. In recent weeks, posters have been plastered in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods calling for protest against what it calls the desecration of the graves.

The Haredi Orthodox Committee for Graves of Israel has said human bones were found in the caves on the site, while the construction company claims the caves were grain and oil storage houses, according to Ynet.

Haredi religious leaders are divided over whether the construction is permitted under Jewish law.

Nir Hasson