'Graves uncovered in Jaffa pagan, not Jewish'

Antiquities Authority counters claims for Jewish bones; Haredi protesters, in doubt, plan to hold ‘funeral’ for remains today.

Excavations near Ashkelon (photo credit: Antiquities Authority)
Excavations near Ashkelon
(photo credit: Antiquities Authority)
The ancient bones uncovered in digs next to the hotly-contested Andromeda Hill site in Jaffa are the remains of pagans and not Jews, the Antiquities Authority announced on Sunday.
The haredi organization “Atra Kadisha” on Sunday refuted the findings and vowed to hold a funeral for the bones on Monday in Jaffa.
Experts say Zechariah's tomb was found in a new excavations
The site has been the location of heated protests over the past year by haredi demonstrators who have clashed with police over what they say is the desecration of Jewish graves being carried out by the archaeological digs at the site. The digs began after work to build the luxury “Eden Hotel” uncovered the ancient graves. Over the course of 2010, excavations were carried out by Meir Edri from the Israel Archaeology Institute. The digs uncovered a wide variety of graves, and among many of them were found large numbers of pig bones. The burial of pig remains within human graves was a common practice among ancient pagans in what is today Israel.
The Antiquities Authority also mentioned on Sunday that digs that took place at Andromeda from 1993 to 1994 revealed graves from between the Persian and Byzantine periods. Most of the graves were dug into the sandstone and among them was discovered a jar containing a fetus dating to the 1800-2000 BCE, a find that the Antiquities Authority says definitively proves that there was a pagan population that lived in the area.
Last June, five police officers were injured during a protest staged by hundreds of haredim against the digs at Andromeda Hill. The police were hurt when they were hit by rocks thrown by the protesters.
The Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada announced on Sunday that it would hold protests in New York against the Andromeda hill digs and construction work on the luxury project. One protest will be outside of the Israeli consulate and the other outside the Manhattan home of developer Aby Rosen, who is building the Eden Hotel.