Sunday, May 16, 2010


Live from Charedi Jerusalem, Riots?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I spend the evening in an ultra-orthodox section of Jerusalem.  Upon entering the neighborhood I saw one large green trash dumpster that had been overturned in one lane of the street...

Other than that, everything was perfectly normal.  I asked the people I was visiting what the dumpster was about, they said there were some protesters about the grave situation in Ashkelon.  Here's what they explained to me (with my interpretation and explanation added):

The Jewish religion gives great respect to the body, during life and after death. A burial place is to be respected and protected. Further, at the spiritual level, one of the five levels of the soul remains connected to the burial site (which is why it's a special location to make a connection with the deceased person). And, a burial site also is a source of a certain form of spiritual impurity - such that a kohein (the Jewish priestly caste) can not pass over such a site.

Given all these things, Jewish tradition strongly protects grave sites perpetually.

During World War II, the Nazi's (y"m) intentionally destroyed a large number of historical Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe.  Following World War II, the communist countries further had little respect for cemeteries, should a road or other building project need the space.  The struggle to protect Jewish cemeteries has been long and not particularly successful.  And in many cases we're not talking long historical graves, we're talking even ones from just before the war (people's parents or grandparents).  It's been painful.

In Ashkelon, an ancient grave site was found as they expanded the emergency service wing of the local hospital. The ultra-orthodox would like respect and sensitivity shown to the grave site, and the expansion to be redesigned to avoid the graves.  The government neither wants to spend the significant extra money required nor spend the significant extra time that would be required, particularly in an area that falls under Hamas rocket fire and needs a missile hardened emergency services center as soon as possible.

Who's right?  In this case even Jewish religion allows that the living have priority over the dead, and given the need for the emergency center and need for a hardened facility religious law would side with moving the graves quickly and building as soon as possible.

BUT the religious argue that this nuance will be lost on those looking in from the outside. And therefore making this practical religious decision here will lead to hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and holy grave sites in Europe to be put at risk.  After all, if it's ok to move a cemetery in Israel for public works, why not pave over the cemetery of the Maharal of Prague or the Vilna Gaon if the nearby street needs widening?

That's the argument. Practically, I didn't see much going on. I think the news is hyping it up.


  1. And what about the minor detail that they aren't Jewish graves?

  2. Well, this viewer looking in from the outside is appalled at the burning of trash, attacks on the city's municipal workers, social workers, and any other Israeli that comes into 'their neighborhood' to attempt to do the city's municipal work, assist in family breakdown matters, or any other matter they deem needed. This DOESN'T mean the people have to abide by their decisions. Respect and decency for another Jew is tantamount to Torah knowledge, as Hashem created the Jews in 'His likeness' and each Jewish face contains a tzelem Elokim. [therefore, spitting, cursing, name-calling, etc, is offensive and against the Torah's principles and Pirkei Avos].

    I wish everyone would grow up and learn how to educate each other about the dignity of each other!
    Just open your eyes and recognize that the re-establishment and development of Eretz HaKodesh would NOT HAPPEN unless HASHEM WANTED IT TO BE! (emphasis intended)

  3. Hype or no hype, the real effect of the protests is that the emergency service wing has been delayed. How many lives have been or will be lost as a result of these delays? The living take priority over the dead. How can anyone justify rioting as acceptable response to this situation? Where are the people working on creative (halachically permitted) solutions to the problem?

  4. yasher koach, thanks for addressing this. people who don't know, need to know how important it is for klal ysirael to respect these things.
    may the kevers be protected

  5. Yaacov, if the kevers are so important, why weren't the groups protesting the moving of what may or may not be jewish graves not protesting what definately were jewish graves being moved during the expulsion of Gush Katif. One of my freinds had her husbands grave moved. She and her four children, who were young at the time of his death, had to sit a day of shiva because of the move.

  6. So, in the end, all the graves were of pagans?

    Frankly, the Haredim looked bad and let this 'Itra kadisha' group take them for a spin. Sure the Israeli media has been on a rabid anti-Haredi witchhunt the past few weeks (some conspiracy theorists would saw so that Shas and Yahadut hatora would leave the coalition so that Kadima can come get rejuventated), but, I concur; where was this Itra Kadish group when Gush Katif graves were being moved? Rav Mordechai Eliyahu poseked to lay down a metre thick cement casing but no one listened.

    This is another example of how the Haredim would rather go it alone instead of joining forces with Eretz Yisrael and the 'modernim'. Sad.

  7. Can everyone please stop calling these protesters Charedim, they're not!


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