Barzilai ER May Be Built Beneath Graves

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided last month to build a missile-resistant emergency room on the originally proposed site at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, despite the presence of ancient graves, the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabai, is reportedly considering a new proposal to build the emergency room underground, beneath the graves.

The new approach, promoted by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ), was reported by the ultra-Orthodox weekly "Bakehila" ("In the Community" ) as an alternative to relocating the graves.

Rabbi Ya'akov Rozha, a member of the Chief Rabbinical Council and the rabbi for the Zaka emergency rescue and recovery organization, said the technology exists. Proponents of the idea also suggested to Gabai that the underground emergency room would be less expensive to build.

The Prime Minister's Office said in response: "In the context of the process of advancing the missile-resistant emergency room at Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, the director general of the [Prime Minister's] Office and those planning the emergency room also met with a team of rabbis who presented the proposal that the emergency room be built below the layer of the graves. Despite the engineering difficulties the proposal raises, it was explored in detail last week by professionals at the Health Ministry. [Their] response is expected soon."

When asked by Haaretz if the new proposal would delay construction, Netanyahu's office said every effort will be made to assure that the prime minister's instructions to build the emergency room "in its original location, without risking lives and without delaying the time frame" are carried out.