Fervently Orthodox Jews and archaeologists have again clashed horns, this time at an electric company construction site in Beersheba, which the haredim claim contains Jewish remains.
The conflict began when ruins of a Byzantine church were uncovered at the site where the company planned to build. Archaeologists asked to excavate the area and then discovered the remains.
These were turned over to the Ministry of Religious Affairs at the direction of the Attorney General. The head of the excavation site said no more human remains have since been found.
The excavations are continuing, as are haredi protests over what they claim is the desecration of Jewish graves.
This is the latest eruption of friction between the Antiquities Authority and fervently Orthodox Jews, who have clashed in the past over various sites in Israel.
The authority this week sent Knesset members copies of a report that said that several of the haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem have been built on graves from the Second Temple period.
The Hebrew daily Ha’aretz said the document, “Two or Three Things You Didn’t Know About the Antiquities Authority,” was sent in response to a series of critical articles that appeared in the haredi press recently.
Among other things, the report said that “during archeological excavations in Shuafat and Mazor which were undertaken to build haredi neighborhoods, dozens of ancient graves were discovered, including those of Jews, and no one protested until it was reported in the press.”
Antiquities Authority spokesperson Efrat Orbach said the authority had informed the haredim about the Jewish graves, but they did nothing in response.
A spokesman for the Athra Kadisha Society, which monitors sites for the haredi community, said in response that the authority’s claims were empty accusations with no basis in fact.
“Maybe in Shuafat they found one grave, which they quickly destroyed so no one would know,” the spokesman told Ha’aretz. “Just show me one grave.”