Relocation of Israeli emergency room raises furor


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet voted to relocate a planned reinforced emergency room in southern Israel because ancient graves were found on the site.

The director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry, Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, resigned immediately after the 11-10 Cabinet vote to relocate Barzilai Medical Center’s planned underground secure emergency room.

The hospital, located in Ashkelon, has been the target of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza. Changing the plans means a delay of several more years before the protected emergency room will be completed, a major increase in the cost of the project and a new site farther from the hospital’s main building.

Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman, a haredi lawmaker from the United Torah Judaism party who heads the ministry from the No. 2 spot, initiated the change after the discovery of the bones on the site set aside for the new emergency room. Experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority have assured Litzman that the bones are pagan or Christian and may be moved, but Litzman insisted they are ancient Jewish gravesites. 

The State Comptroller said Monday he will investigate the change.

The cost of moving the emergency room to a new site from its current planned site will cost an additional estimated $42.7 million. A private donor who had pledged more than $10 million for the original site is now reconsidering the donation, Haaretz reported.

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