JERUSALEM (May. 11)
Human bones, which Israel’s chief rabbis claim are the remains of Bar Kochba’s warriors who died in the revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago, were buried in the Judaean hills today in a solemn ceremony attended by President Yitzhak Navon. Premier Menachem Begin and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren. The bones, in four flog-draped coffins, were borne to a hillside grave by officers representing all branches of the armed services.
Earlier, as the party of distinguished mourners alighted from their helicopter, they were confronted by a group of demonstrators garbed in Roman togas and helmets, carrying spears and placards protesting the ceremony as a waste of money. It cost over $2 million. Police promptly tore up the placards and hustled the group away. But their message got through and the incident was broadcast in Israel and abroad.
The bones have, been a source of controversy since their discovery in 1961. Although the Chief Rabbinate certified that they were the remains of some 215 Israelite warriors who died in suicidal resistance to the Roman Legions, there is no scientific evidence to indicate the age of the bones or to determine conclusively whether they belonged to men, women or children.
Nevertheless, Begin appeared to take the rabbinical claim seriously. After the army’s chief chaplain recited the prayer for the dead and the coffins were lowered into the grave, the Premier, addressing the bones, declared: “We must tell you, our mighty forefathers, that we have returned (to Judaea) and will not leave.”