Task force to reassess Ashkelon ER move


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a task force to re-evaluate a Cabinet decision to relocate the planned construction of a reinforced emergency room in southern Israel.

Israel’s Cabinet approved by one vote on Sunday a plan to relocate Barzilai Medical Center’s planned underground secure emergency room to a site farther from the Ashkelon hospital because ancient graves were found on the site.

The task force, to be headed by the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Eyal Gabai, was instructed to find a solution that would preserve the sanctity of the dead while ensuring the security of patients, according to Haaretz. Recommendations will be presented to Netanyahu after Passover.

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 director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry, Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, resigned immediately after the vote.

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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