Two of Israel's most senior haredi rabbis, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, have publicly criticized radical elements in the ultra-Orthodox community who have violently protested against construction work in Beit Shemesh.

In a public notice published Tuesday and posted in haredi neighborhoods, the rabbis deplored recent criticism of a ruling by another leading rabbi, who found that continuing with the building presents no halachic problem.

“Worthless people have opened their mouths against one of the great Torah sages of our generation, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch,” wrote the rabbis.

“We hereby protest this for the honor of the Torah. May it be God’s will that [these people] fully repent.”

The comments represent the first time leading haredi rabbis have publicly objected to the actions of the hard-line group protesting against the construction work in Beit Shemesh.

The group, called Atra Kadisha and connected to a faction in the radical Eda Haredit communal organization, believes that the building site, known as the Goloventzitz project, possibly contains Jewish graves which make construction at the site forbidden.

Sternbuch, who is himself the second-highest figure in the Eda, has ruled that there is no problem with construction at the site.

However, the chief rabbi of the group, Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss, has ruled that the work should stop, and Atra Kadisha therefore rejects Sternbuch’s ruling, saying it is simply following Weiss’s ruling.

The comments of Kanievsky and Karelitz – who are from the mainstream haredi community, unlike the Eda – are, however, unlikely to be listened to by members of Atra Kadisha, because of their allegiance to Weiss.

The comments may, however, increase pressure on the group to tone down its violent protests and polemics against construction and against Sternbuch.

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