Protesting Alleged Desecration of Ancient Graves, Haredim Clash Again With Police in Beit Shemesh

Meanwhile, top ultra-Orthodox rabbis dispute protesters’ claim that ancient Jewish graves lie at construction site.

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox men on Tuesday continued their clashes with police and security guards in protests against construction at a Beit Shemesh site they say contains ancient Jewish graves. No arrests were made.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Magistrate Court remanded 20 Haredim who had been arrested during Monday’s confrontations. The protesters who remained in custody refused to identify themselves to police, and will probably be charged with breach of public order, hindering an police officer in his duty, assaulting a police officer and arson.

One of the arrested demonstrators said in court: “I am the son of the Holy One Blessed be He, and I’m glad he chose me to be his son. He loves me. The days of Judgment are approaching and I’m glad he called me to defend his honor, which is being desecrated these days. Whoever believes, will profit. The Holy One Blessed be He can give me and our friends so much, he can give all the hundreds who arrived a sweet year. And all those who stood in our way, their end will come and they will suffer badly.”

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 Jewish graves have been found, determined that such graves were at the site and called for an end to the construction. The rabbis of the extremist Eda Haredit movement backed up the group. However, revered rabbis such as Chaim Kanevsky and Aharon Leib Shteinman, heads of the Lithuanian Haredim, as well as the prominent Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, said building at the site was permitted. The Haredi website “Kikar Hashabat” reported Tuesday that even Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, leader of the Eda Haredit, does not support the demonstrations.

On Monday leaders of Haredi communities appointed a committee of rabbinical judges to examine the halakhic (Jewish legal) aspects of the construction project. Hiddush, an organization advocating religious freedom and equality, responded to the protests on Tuesday by saying the main reason for them was the Eda Haredit’s need to collect donations. Rabbi Uri Regev, director of Hiddush, said: “Just like heat waves, vacations in August and droves of jellyfish, the violent demonstrations of the Eda Haredit movement have become a seasonal phenomenon. It seems that the causes for the demonstrations aren’t important, as long as stones are hurled and the donors see the photos.”