Jerusalem (Aug. 18)
One of Israel’s leading Judaic scholars, Prof. Ephraim Urbach of the Hebrew University, sharply condemned ultra-Orthodox elements trying to put an end to the archaeological excavations in the City of David.
Urbach, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences, a Hebrew University professor emeritus of Talmud, and himself an Orthodox Jew, spoke yesterday at the Hebrew University amphitheater on Mt. Scopus before hundreds of scholars from 24 countries who gathered here for the World Congress of Jewish Studies.
Urbach said the attack on the archaeologists was an attack on archaeology and science in general. He attacked Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, whose intervention in the matter he said was “totally unwarranted and unjustified.” Urbach said one could have expected Goren to condemn the acts of sabotage by the religious circles, but instead he made “surprising statements.”
Violence and protests by the ultra-Orthodox caused part of the dig to be closed temporarily nearly two weeks ago. The Ultra-Orthodox, supported by the two Chief Rabbis, maintain that there is an ancient Jewish cemetery in the area, and that the excavations are therefore a desecration of the graves. The two Chief Rabbis are due to tour the area once again tomorrow to make a final determination in the dispute.
The public campaign against the pressure of the religious circles was picking up momentum today. Heads of the universities in the country were to meet at the Hebrew University for an emergency session. They are also scheduled to meet with Knesset Speaker Menachem Savidor together with leading members of the Israel Exploration Society. A mass rally protesting the ultra-Orthodox interference was scheduled late this afternoon before the Knesset.