The two leaders of warring factions within the radical ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit communal movement have agreed on a compromise which will allow construction work at a building site in Beit Shemesh to continue unhindered.
Rabbi Yitzhak Tuviah Weiss, the head of the Eda, and Rabbi Moshe Shternboch, the second in the leadership structure, have agreed that a new inspector will be appointed who will be responsible for overseeing any concerns regarding graves at the site.
A bitter and at times violent confrontation which has lasted for more than two years arose around the Goloventzitz residential project, due to the objections of the Atra Kadisha organization, tied to Weiss, which protests and campaigns against construction which could damage Jewish graves.
Atra Kadisha (“holy place” in Aramaic) has since the 1950s protested against archeological digs and construction work that might desecrate Jewish graves, something the group considers to be a violation of Jewish laws pertaining to the respect for the dead.
The group’s opposition to the Beit Shemesh project, based on a ruling by Weiss, has delayed construction by three years and led to substantial financial losses for the project owners.
Shternboch however ruled that there was no problem in Jewish law with construction at the site which led to the commencement of work earlier this month, which in turn sparked violent riots by extremists from Atra Kadisha and loyalists of Weiss in the Eda.
Under the terms of the agreement, the inspector, Rabbi Eliyahu Rosen – a rabbinical judge from the rabbinical court of senior haredi leader Rabbi Nissim Karelitz – will oversee the opening and inspection of any caves or pits at the site by a team of experts to check if any graves are within them, and if so, to check if they are Jewish graves or not.
Should any graves be found, appropriate steps will be taken to provide a halachically acceptable solution to the problem.
Rabbi David Shmidel, the chairman of Atra Kadisha, who has led the struggle and is considered to be particularly radical on the issue, is also in agreement.
Ahrale Yakter, director of a rival to Atra Kadisha called the Association for the Prevention of Grave Desecration, described the outcome as a blow to Shmidel’s organization who had wanted to have exclusive oversight of the inspection process. The groups inspectors will now not be allowed at the site.
Yakter said that the agreement was good news for hundreds of families in Jerusalem who have bought apartments in the project and who have been suffering for two years with the burden of extra costs brought about by the lengthy delays.
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