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Haredim Riot in Jerusalem over Digs at Burial Sites

Riots broke out during the Passover holiday in fervently Orthodox neighborhoods of the city in protest over archeological excavations of caves in northern Jerusalem where Jews were supposedly buried in ancient times.

Wednesday’s protests were triggered after several dozen Orthodox residents inspected a just-completed dig in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood and were forced away from the site by police who were summoned by workers from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Hours later, rioting erupted in Mea She’arim and other religious neighborhoods, where haredim, or fervently Orthodox Jews, set trash cans on fire, threw stones and bottles at police and blocked traffic.

Excavations that threaten to uncover burial grounds have long been a subject of dispute between haredim and government authorities, since haredim hold that Jewish law forbids graves to be disturbed.

In this latest incident, Antiquities officials said the disturbances were caused by a misunderstanding, and reportedly expressed regret that they had acted hastily by calling the police instead of trying to resolve the problem more diplomatically.

The Pisgat Ze’ev dig uncovered several burial caves, most of which were empty, while the few bones that remained were removed by the Antiquities Authority.

The site, scheduled to be turned over to the Housing Ministry, is designated for the construction of hundreds of new homes.

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