‘Desecration of graves is what led to rockets’

Posters in Bnei Brak blast Nesher cement company for alleged desecration of graves in Ramle.

Cemetary 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Cemetary 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
A group of haredi extremists has plastered walls in Bnei Brak with posters blaming the alleged desecration of graves in Ramle for the barrage of rockets from Gaza.
The posters were issued in the name of the “gedolei yisrael,” or senior haredi rabbinic leaders, but did not contain the signatures of any rabbis. A previously unknown group calling itself the Committee for Activities for the Rescue of the Graves of the Mishnaic and Talmudic sages of Nesher produced the broadsheets.
One poster, titled “The robbery must stop,” asserted that “because of the desecration of the graves of the Mishnaic and Talmudic sages at the ‘Nesher’ building site and their removal from the earth, houses in Israel are felled and turned to dust from missile fire.”
Another poster, this one headed with the exclamation “Pursue and destroy!” states that “at this time when millions of Jews are endangered due to rocket fire in Israel... and many houses are destroyed and made into dust, we must look inwards at ourselves.”
“Why has this disaster befallen us?” the poster’s authors wrote, immediately before claiming that it is due to “the destruction, in recent years, of Israel’s largest cemetery.”
Wall posters, or pashkevilim as they are known in Yiddish, serve an important function in an ultra-Orthodox society that has traditionally shunned television and other forms of mass media. Such posters are used to invite community members to events, announce deaths and other lifecycle events and publicize rabbinic edicts.
Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim, a haredi activist and the former unofficial spokesman of the staunchly anti-Zionist Eda Haredit organization, commented that such an extremist message must come from the fringes of the haredi community and does not represent mainstream ultra-Orthodox thinking.
While he said that the desecration of graves is a “most serious matter” that concerns many haredim and is not to be taken lightly, it is inappropriate to blame the country’s current security woes on the issue.
Moreover, he stated, the rabbinic leaders of his community “are not afraid to put their names on proclamations” and that “any poster on which the author is afraid to put his name and on which no names of gedolim are written” should not be taken seriously. Most haredim, he asserted, know not to be taken in by such propaganda.
Avraham Zuroff, a former haredi journalist, noted that while the names, and even the signatures, of haredi leaders can be found on broadsheets, many times the poster’s message is a distortion of the quoted rabbi’s words, if not an outright fabrication.
“Many pashkevilim take the words of rabbis out of the context in which they were uttered,” Zuroff told The Jerusalem Post.
Haredim have a history of opposing construction projects over concerns for the possible desecration of Jewish graves that dates back to the 1950s with the establishment of the Atra Kadisha (“holy place” in Aramaic) organization.
The Atra Kadisha has previously used violence to prevent projects to which they are opposed, such as the new, bombproof emergency room in Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.
The current furor is over excavations at a quarry near Ramle that have been conducted over the last several years by archeologists from the University of Haifa. The Nesher cement company owns the quarry and is sponsoring the dig.
According to the university, a “few dozen burial caves have been revealed so far in what seems to be a Second Temple Period graveyard” at the site.