Chief Rabbinate Angered by Rulings on City of David Dig

The Chief Rabbinate, infuriated by the Supreme Court’s and Attorney General’s rulings that their halachic authority has no bearing under the laws of the state on the controversial archaeological digs in the City of David, demanded today that the government speed passage of Article 45 of its coalition agreement affirming rabbinical authority in the matter.

Article 45 is one of the many concessions made by Premier Menachem Begin to the religious parties in exchange for their support of his narrow coalition government. It gives the Supreme Rabbinical Council legal authority to declare a cemetery to be a holy place and thus block archaeological digs wherever the rabbis might decree that a Jewish cemetery exists.

The Council, meeting today, re-affirmed its ruling that an ancient Jewish cemetery was being desecrated by the digs undertaken last summer by a Hebrew University team licensed by the government’s Department of Antiquities. The Council also proclaimed that “The Jewish halacha is eternal and not subordinate to any secular authority.”

Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir, echoing an earlier Supreme Court ruling, stated this week that since Israel is not a theocratic state, halachic rulings are binding on individuals on a voluntary basis but not on the government or its institutions which owe their existence to secular law.

Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren said today that he expected the Knesset to pass Article 45 into law before Dec. 31 when the current digs license expires. “That dig won’t be renewed,” Goren declared. The dig season ended this week. Prof. Yigal Shiloh, who heads the archaeological team, expressed confidence that the law would be upheld, the license renewed and the excavations resumed next summer.

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