Earthwork to remove the pagan graves near Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center and finally begin construction of the hospital’s reinforced emergency department was due to begin on Sunday, under the close watch of large numbers of security forces including anti-terror squads.
Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said on Saturday night that the Israel Police told him it would act with determination to prevent haredi rioters from interfering with the work.
Atra 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 Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, a Gur hassid, who demanded that the emergency department be built elsewhere. He persuaded the cabinet to support him, but after public outrage over the much greater expense, the longer delays and the unsuitability of the alternate site, Prime Minister (and formally health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu held a revote, and the decision was changed.
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 the police said it would do all it could to protect all innocent people.