haredim detained at Barzilai.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
drew a swastika on the walls of the improvised police
holding area at Barzilai Hospital in which they were being detained on
Sunday, Army Radio reported.
reportedly read, “Barzilai hospital robs graves."
protesters were detained earlier on Sunday, trying to
prevent the Israeli Antiquities Authority from starting to evacuate the
graves from the site for the Ashkelon hospital’s reinforced emergency
Also Sunday, 15 haredi men were
arrested for attempting to set on fire the bracken fields abutting
Shikma prison on the outskirts of Ashkelon. Firefighters quickly
arrived on the spot and put out the fire which threatened Ashkelon's
northern industrial zone.
Earlier in the day, at
the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defended
moving pagan graves near Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center on Sunday
morning, after Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman leveled a veiled
accusation of anti-Semitism at authorities and construction of the
hospital’s reinforced emergency department began.
Some 25 haredi
protesters were detained overnight Saturday and
early Sunday as construction began under the close watch of large
numbers of security forces, including anti-terror squads.
The Israeli Antiquities
Authority (IAA) announced at 11:00 Sunday
morning that it would be broadcasting live from the site where the
graves are being moved, but Litzman quickly buried the plan. His office
instructed the IAA to remove the video from its website.
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Kadisha, an extreme haredi group that opposes the
movement of bones and claims those near Barzilai belonged to Jews, is
supported in this matter by Litzman, a Gur hassid, who demanded that
the emergency department be built elsewhere.
interviewed on Israel Radio Sunday, and hinted that
his United Torah Judaism party was considering leaving the coalition.
The deputy health minister said he would consult rabbis on UTJ's next
"We don't create crises after every
disagreement," Litzman said. He also added that haredi rabbis did not
tell their followers to protest. "If they call us, then we will go out
and protest," he explained.
that "if a similar step had been taken abroad, Israelis would be saying
that it was anti-Semitism!"
persuaded the cabinet to oppose moving the graves, but after public
outrage over the much greater expense, the longer delays and the
unsuitability of the alternate site, Netanyahu (who is also formally
health minister) held a re-vote, and the decision was changed.
the beginning of Sunday's cabinet meeting, the
prime minister addressed the events near the Barzilai hospital.
decision to build a new armored emergency room
was made after the Second Lebanon war. The important haredi public may
feel hurt because of it, but we reached the decision that this should
be done," Netanyahu said.
"The greater good is
what guides us. We take advice and try to reach conclusions as much as
possible, but at the end, the government's decision is for the greater
good," he said at the weekly meeting.
Jerusalem police on Sunday morning reported that dozens of haredi men
had begun lighting trash bins on fire and blocking roads in and around
Shabbat Square in the capital's Mea Shearim neighborhood, in what
appeared to be part of the growing response to construction work at
Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, that will see a number of tombs,
believed to be of pagan origin, relocated.
Additionally, overturned trash bins and other debris could be seen
scattered in piles on a number of roads throughout the large haredi
enclave, and security forces were on the scene, attempting to restore
Israel Medical Association chairman Dr.
Leonid Eidelman said on Saturday night that the Israel Police had told
him it would act with determination to prevent haredi rioters from
interfering with the work, as archeologists began to clean the
Eidelman expressed his satisfaction that
the much-delayed construction of the facility - to protect patients,
staffers and visitors from rocket attacks from nearby Gaza - would now
begin. He toured the site last week with other IMA executives. He
feared that hospital staffers might be harmed by demonstrators, but
police said they would do all they could to protect all innocent people.