Litzman to skip ceremony for new Barzilai facility

Deputy Health Minister, who opposed facility's construction, cannot attend because of plans "to light Hanukka candles.”

Litzman 311 (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVITCH)
Litzman 311
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said he will not attend the cornerstone laying ceremony at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon Thursday because of his “commitment to light Hanukka candles.”
The ceremony marks the construction of the fortified surgical and emergency departments building, which has been delayed for a decade, but is slated for completion in the next few years.
The Gur Hassid and United Torah Judaism MK, who fiercely opposed the construction project on a lot where ancient bones of pagans were found but who was overridden by the government, said Tuesday he would not attend the ceremony.
He did not say where he would kindle a hanukkia, when asked by The Jerusalem Post, but candles will be lit at the Barzilai ceremony by MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem (Shas), who will be a guest along with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The director-general that Litzman had appointed, Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, resigned in March 2010 to protest the deputy health minister’s initiative to relocate the planned medical facility to a more distant site – thereby raising costs by an estimated NIS 135 million and significantly delaying construction.
Litzman moved the project because he insisted the ancient graves on the land were those of Jews and had to remain undisturbed.
Haredi activists from the Atra Kadisha organization called on Litzman to prohibit moving the bones. But archeologists said that during preliminary digs, they found clear evidence from ancient Philistine and other Pagan markings that they were not Jewish remains.
Although the cabinet initially voted to relocate the partially underground facility, public, medical and political pressure on Prime Minister and former health minister Binyamin Netanyahu forced the ministers to reverse their original decision and approve construction on the lot.
The controversial bones were removed and reburied elsewhere.
The invitation in Hebrew and English to attend the ceremony was issued by Barzilai and not by the ministry, which owns the hospital.
Although Lieberman and Amsalem’s names appear as honored guests, Litzman’s does not and neither does that of any prominent ministry official. Asked if the director-general who replaced Hai-Am, Prof.
Ronni Gamzu, or other senior officials will attend, Litzman declined to comment.
But Barzilai was told that Litzman would attend a different ceremony at the hospital next week, right after Hanukka, for the dedication of a new MRI scanner.
There will be no bones in sight but bones of contention regarding the longdelayed fortified facility.