Haredim draw swastika at Barzilai

15 arrested setting fire to fields near Ashkelon's Shikma prison.

haredim detained at Barzilai (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
haredim detained at Barzilai
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Haredi protesters drew a swastika on the walls of the improvised policeholding area at Barzilai Hospital in which they were being detained onSunday, Army Radio reported.
The graffitireportedly read, “Barzilai hospital robs graves."
About 30 protesters were detained earlier on Sunday, trying toprevent the Israeli Antiquities Authority from starting to evacuate thegraves from the site for the Ashkelon hospital’s reinforced emergencydepartment.
Also Sunday, 15 haredi men werearrested for attempting to set on fire the bracken fields abuttingShikma prison on the outskirts of Ashkelon. Firefighters quicklyarrived on the spot and put out the fire which threatened Ashkelon'snorthern industrial zone.
Earlier in the day, atthe weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defendedmoving pagan graves near Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center on Sundaymorning, after Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman leveled a veiledaccusation of anti-Semitism at authorities and construction of thehospital’s reinforced emergency department began.
Some 25 haredi protesters were detained overnight Saturday andearly Sunday as construction began under the close watch of largenumbers of security forces, including anti-terror squads.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced at 11:00 Sundaymorning that it would be broadcasting live from the site where thegraves are being moved, but Litzman quickly buried the plan. His officeinstructed the IAA to remove the video from its website.
RELATED:Eda Haredit calls on public to protest BarzilaidecisionThe battle for sensible governmentMedia Matters: Blacking out Zionism?
Atra Kadisha, an extreme haredi group that opposes themovement of bones and claims those near Barzilai belonged to Jews, issupported in this matter by Litzman, a Gur hassid, who demanded thatthe emergency department be built elsewhere.
Litzman was interviewed on Israel Radio Sunday, and hinted thathis United Torah Judaism party was considering leaving the coalition.The deputy health minister said he would consult rabbis on UTJ's nextstep.
"We don't create crises after everydisagreement," Litzman said. He also added that haredi rabbis did nottell their followers to protest. "If they call us, then we will go outand protest," he explained.
Litzman complainedthat "if a similar step had been taken abroad, Israelis would be sayingthat it was anti-Semitism!"
Litzman hadpersuaded the cabinet to oppose moving the graves, but after publicoutrage over the much greater expense, the longer delays and theunsuitability of the alternate site, Netanyahu (who is also formallyhealth minister) held a re-vote, and the decision was changed.
At the beginning of Sunday's cabinet meeting, theprime minister addressed the events near the Barzilai hospital.
"The decision to build a new armored emergency roomwas made after the Second Lebanon war. The important haredi public mayfeel hurt because of it, but we reached the decision that this shouldbe done," Netanyahu said.
"The greater good iswhat guides us. We take advice and try to reach conclusions as much aspossible, but at the end, the government's decision is for the greatergood," he said at the weekly meeting.
Unrest spreadsto Jerusalem
Jerusalem police on Sunday morning reported that dozens of haredi menhad begun lighting trash bins on fire and blocking roads in and aroundShabbat Square in the capital's Mea Shearim neighborhood, in whatappeared to be part of the growing response to construction work atBarzilai 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 seenscattered in piles on a number of roads throughout the large haredienclave, and security forces were on the scene, attempting to restoreorder.
Israel Medical Association chairman Dr.Leonid Eidelman said on Saturday night that the Israel Police had toldhim it would act with determination to prevent haredi rioters frominterfering with the work, as archeologists began to clean thearea.
Eidelman expressed his satisfaction thatthe much-delayed construction of the facility - to protect patients,staffers and visitors from rocket attacks from nearby Gaza - would nowbegin. He toured the site last week with other IMA executives. Hefeared that hospital staffers might be harmed by demonstrators, butpolice said they would do all they could to protect all innocent people.