Sunday, March 21, 2010

Resting in Peace

The government is planning to build a new and needed emergency operating room at the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon. This emergency room will be underground and protected from missile attacks. Like in most places in Israel, when you dig for construction, you find archaeological sites or graves.

At this site they found some ancient graves. It is not clear if the graves belong to Jews or Romans (it probably is clear, but each side has a need to take a predeclared position).

There are two options at this point. Respectfully move the graves to a new burial site, or build the emergency room at a new location, at the additional cost of some 100 million shekels and further delay.

Of all the things currently happening in Israel, the Chareidi party UTJ is threatening to leave the coalition and bring activists to the streets if the government goes ahead with this act of relocating the graves to build the emergency operating room.

I can only wonder why is it the UTJ didn’t threaten to bring activists to the streets or leave the coalition when the dead Jews of Gush Katif were dug up and reburied. They were sitting in Sharon’s disengagement coalition. In fact they joined Sharon’s coalition on March 30, 2005 – just before the expulsions, and the uprooting of 48 Jews (including 6 terror victims). I only recall… silence.

It certainly doesn’t seem to interest the UTJ that their fellow living Jews are unable to build or expand their homes - or get kicked out of their homes. It certainly doesn’t even seem to interest them that even their fellow Chareidi Jews in Ramat Shlomo in Jerusalem may not be able to build new homes or expansions for their living families.

I’ve heard no threats of leaving the coalitions or of taking the battle to the streets.

Could there be something hypocritical going on here?

I would like to offer a solution that could resolve this easily.

Since the UTJ considers not moving the graves of some Roman soldiers to be of the utmost importance, to the point where they are threatening riots and bringing down the government – something they haven’t recently threatened on any other issue, then a compromise solution in clearly needed.

My compromise is that the extra 100 million shekels come, not from yours and my tax money, but from UTJ’s earmarked government funding for their programs and organizations.

As this is clearly a red line for them, I wouldn’t want them to cross it, but they can certainly help contribute financially to finding an alternative solution that won’t offend their sensibilities, while sharing in the extra financial burden they would otherwise be causing the rest of us.

Personally, I’m not comfortable with the concept of digging up graves for construction. There’s a thin line between moving a few Roman graves that are in the way of a major public project, and then digging up Jewish graves in the way of a highway and tunnel, until eventually other countries dig up entire Jewish graveyards to build apartment complexes after noting our precedents in Israel.
 But Halacha recognizes the possibility of reinterment under certain condition, but clearly it needs to be done carefully while considering the consequences.
My only point here (for those that didn’t catch it) is the utter hypocrisy and lack of Torah values of the UTJ party in terms of what they are willing to go to war over.

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Anonymous said...

People who vote for UTJ subscribe to the psak of their Rabbis who seem to see digging up graves or loosening conversions as a red line- but apparently not uprooting settlements.
you subscribe to the pask of Rabbis who believe the opposite

Yankie said...

The UTJ had no problem moving the graves from Gush Katif, because of Kavod HaMeis.

Here, when there is the cost of 100 million NIS, which could save hundreds of lives, a case of kavod habriyos, and the UTJ decides to be intransigent?

The UTJ Rabbis are yet again playing into the hands of the small minded askanim who dont see 100 Million NIS as a real issue.

Chilul Hashem

KACH 613 said...

This is nothing new, the UTJ has been about the $$$$ for years!! I who consider myself Charadi would never in my lifetime support this party. But you know something Joe, I think all the partys are corrupted, every single one of them and we must support the worst of all the evils, as a great band said "Its sad but true"

Neshama said...

Joe, can you elaborate on that Peace Now demand and the smear on Im Tirtzu?

The left accuses us of things THEY are guilty about!

yoni r. said...


I think you missed Joe's point. He was not taking them to task for acquiesing to uprooting settlements. He was pointing out the hypocisy that UTJ did not oppose the uprooting of Jewish graves which went along with it, even though they are ready to go to the streets for a similar issue here.

NormanF said...

If a cemetery is disused for thousands of years, there is no halachic issue of desecration involved. Every one has turned to dust.... is moving ancient graves more important than catering to the needs of the living? I wonder if UTJ has taken leave of its senses.

Avrohom Shimon said...

The Jewish sources (e.g. Mishna, Tosefta, Talmud) state very clearly that when a city must expand the graves (jewish graves of course) are moved away for the need of the living. for example תוספתא בבא בתרא א' יא' "כל הקברים מתפנים חוץ מקבר המלך וקבר הנביא" In the time of the Second Temple, this is what happened and archeology shows that when Jerusalem expanded to the north, the burial caves that were in the area that would be added to the city were emptied and transffered to new burial caves outside the city.
I dont understand why anybody has to be appologetic about moving these graves even if they are of jews (whitch they clearly arent). People who love the Torah and the Jewish religion should stand up and say this is not what the Torah says! In our religion the needs of the living come before the needs of buried bodies.
The Chareidim are so distant from the the values of the Tanach and Chazal, it's no wonder that their priorities are so corupt.

Eli Willner said...

The issue of these graves has nothing to do with Gush Katif or any other issue - it stands on its own and is based on halachic principles. Any comparison to other issues is mere rhetoric and not worth commenting on.

Now, regarding the graves issue itself, I have no idea what "camp" the previous posters pledge allegiance to. But I'll assume that at least some of them belong to one or another non-charedi religious camp. As a corollary I'll also assume that they defer to their own religious authorities. Very well, posters, kindly consult with your most senior religious authorities and ask them if they subscribe to the tone and content of your negative comments about Rabbi Litzman, chareidim in general and by extension Rav Elisahiv - whose halachic decision Rabbi Litzman's stand is based on. If you, posters, don't defer to him at least to the extent of showing a modicum of respect, I'll wager that your own religious authorities do!

Sammy Shomron said...

Eli, you of course are referring to Rabbi Litzman who said, "In political matters, one need not consult with the Torah sages". I wonder if moving the graves is a religious or political issue for him. He certainly wasn't very deferential when he said that.

Lurker said...

Eli: The issue of these graves has nothing to do with Gush Katif or any other issue...

Really? And why is, that, exactly? Why are these graves more important than the graves in Gush Katif? Are they not all graves?

Eli: stands on its own and is based on halachic principles.

Mm-hmm. And why do those very same halakhic principles not apply to the graves in Gush Katif?

The hypocrisy is simply stupendous.

Sammy Shomron said...

From: In political matters..."

Eli Willner said...

To "Lurker": When and whether to move graves is an important issue that is addressed by halacha. Whether and when to move people is also an important issue that is addressed by halacha (albeit in not nearly as clear-cut a manner). The two issues, however, hinge on entirely different criteria. To imply a connection between two causes where none exists is rhetoric, pure and simple.

To Sammy: Since Rabbi Litzman consulted Rabbi Eliashiv on this very issue, and is following the ruling he obtained from him, as reported in the Jerusalem Post and elsewhere, I would presume that he considers it to be a religious issue. Which is not really very surprising, is it?

Sammy Shomron said...

And I keep thinking of Shabbos elevators. Do you see the similarities?

Shira said...

Public shailas that are asked to Gedolim don't always have all the details, or the emphases that others might give the question that would make a difference. We don't have the text of what was asked to Rav Elyashiv - who knows if the public hardship was emphasized to the extent that the advocates for the new center feel it.

But Gush Katif isn't relevant - of course graves should be moved pre-emptively so they aren't desecrated. What you're suggesting is that UTJ would have objected to the pinui so that graves wouldn't need to be moved.

(Would get interesting if Har HaZeisim would be up for consideration - then you could cry hypocrisy - but let's not wish for that.)

JoeSettler said...

The comments reached some interesting tangents. I knew of the Gemorah in Baba Batra, but not the specific Tosefta, and that does seem to be particularly relevant to the Halacha.

The questions were raised about the Tshuva of Rav Elyashiv, more specifically hinting of involvement of the Askanim in structuring the question and presenting the facts (and perhaps by Litzman himself). And as it was pointed out, there certainly seems to be precedent to question these publicized general ruling when there is clearly such a strong political agenda involved by those asking them.

BUT, my point here was something else entirely.

The question isn't whether halachically digging up Jewish Gush Katif graves is far more permissible than a bunch of ancient Roman graves. Because assisting in kicking thousands of living Jews out of their homes is far worse than uprooting any graves.

There are clearly far more serious issues facing the Jewish and Chareidi community, and for Litzman and the UTJ to turn this particular issue into their biggest red-line issue (for which they will destroy the coalition and country if they don't get their way) is the height of hypocrisy.

Eli Willner said...

To Sammy: No, a comparison between grave desecration and Shabbos elevators eludes me, sorry.

To Shira: I tend to give most people credit for at least as much intelligence as I have, and when the people are regarded as the preeminent poskim of the generation, for a lot more intelligence than I have, not to mention a lot more siyata dishmaya. Now, if someone asked *me* an important question with global implications I'd take the trouble to ascertain the facts for myself and not just take the questioner's biases at face value. The implication that someone of Rav Eliashiv's stature wouldn't do the same is simply not sensible.

To Joe: As I said earlier, I doubt that whoever you defer to on halachic issues would use or condone words like, "height of hypocrisy" in connection with anything that Rav Eliashiv said. If you're willing to ignore what your own mentors would tell you, what does that say about your respect for daas Torah in the first place - independent of your opinions on chareidi Jewry? And if that's your attitude, why should anyone who does care about daas Torah, regardless of which religious camp they belong to, credit your words?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Eli; The implication that someone of Rav Eliashiv's stature wouldn't do the same is simply not sensible.

Lets review some of the past rulings/announcements from R' Elyashiv.

1. R' Elyashiv supports child molester Elior Chen. (source) A few days later after an uproar, R' Elyashiv recanted his support. Why? Their explanation is that dozens of requests for tzedakka appeals reach the gedolim all the time, and they blanket signed the letter.

Who was behind the letter of support? Friends of Elior Chen in Beitar Elite. So there's a perfect example of evil people leading gedolim astray.

2. Next; Shabbat Elevators. First R' Elyashiv forbids them. A chareidi elevator technician from Bnei Brak decided that he was the world's expert on Shabbat Elevators, and informed R' Elyashiv that he is an expert, and they all work in forbidden ways on Shabbat. A few weeks later, when real organizations who have serious halachik and technical engineering skills presented the issue to R' Elyashiv, he changed his psak.

Evil, misguided people, political hacks or simply non-qualified people who have an "in" with the Gedolim influence them all the time, resulting in piskei halacha and announcements which may not reflect the the Gedolim really think on a subject.

Don't be naive and think that R' Elyashiv has the capability to thoroughly investigate every single issue that arrives at his doorstep.

Eli Willner said...

Jameel: I do not claim infallibility for anyone, nor do gedolim claim infallibility for themselves.

It is possible that Rav Eliashiv has acted on the basis of bad information at one time or another. However,

1) Anyone who disagrees with a gadol but doesn't want to appear to be flouting him will attribute whatever ruling they disagree with to "bad information". So claims of such behavior or likely to be much higher than actual instances of such behavior!

2) The commandment to follow the guidance of our gedolim doesn't presume infallibility; we are enjoined to listen to them even though we understand that they *might* be wrong.

3) You and I are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. I would venture to allow Rav Eliashiv at least the same benefit of the doubt.

4) You've correctly noted that Rav Eliashiv has updated his piskei halacha when additional data has come to his attention. This makes it apparent that a) his sources of information aren't restricted, and b) if a psak is in error a correction will be forthcoming. That being the case it seems reasonable to accept the psak in it's current form unless and until a correction is issued.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Eli: Unfortunately, unless I hear a psak from R' Elyashiv directly, I find it hard to take anything at face value.

The only reason R' Elyashiv even knew to change his psak, is because of outrage in the community and in the media -- which is extremely unfortunate.

His sources of information are restricted! Do you know that there used to be a special edited edition of Yated Neeman (or was it Hamodia?) for R' Shach?

When I'm interested in a psak from R' Elyashiv, I will go to him to get it. Otherwise, I can't assume that anything said in his name, is really correct because the information being presented to him is one-sided and agenda driven.

My criticism isn't directed at R' Elyashiv -- but at those who restrict and distort the information flow to him and who are michalel shem shamayim by doing so.

Lurker said...

Eli: The issue of these graves has nothing to do with Gush Katif or any other issue...

Me: Really? And why is, that, exactly? Why are these graves more important than the graves in Gush Katif? Are they not all graves?

Eli: stands on its own and is based on halachic principles.

Me: Mm-hmm. And why do those very same halakhic principles not apply to the graves in Gush Katif?
The hypocrisy is simply stupendous.

Eli: When and whether to move graves is an important issue that is addressed by halacha. Whether and when to move people [sic] is also an important issue that is addressed by halacha... To imply a connection between two causes where none exists is rhetoric, pure and simple.

Why are you fabricating straw men? The subject here is not moving people, it is moving graves. Nobody here -- other than yourself -- has even raised the subject of moving people. As the post clearly states, we are dealing with two cases of moving graves, one of which UTJ allowed, and the other of which which they are fighting.

Your disingenuous attempt to ignore this fact and to change the subject to something else is transparent to everybody.

Fact: When the Israeli government dug up and moved the graves of 48 dead Jews (several of whom died al kiddush haShem) from Gush Katif, the UTJ was shamefuilly silent, and thus tacitly supported the action.

But when the Israeli government decided to dig up and move graves (possibly not even Jewish!) in Ashkelon in order to build a hospital emergency room, UTJ throws a tantrum, threatening to bolt the government and instigate street violence.

Stop trying to change the subject. Your attempt to defend UTJ's blatant hypocrisy in supporting the transfer of the Gush Katif graves, while they vocally oppose the transfer of the Ashkelon graves, is baseless and shameful.

Once again, I challenge you explain why the same halakhic principles that forbid moving the graves in Ashkelon did not also forbid moving the graves in Gush Katif.

Go ahead, I'm waiting...

Eli Willner said...

Jameel: Rav Eliashiv is relatively accessible and sees people with a wide spectrum of opinions. I doubt that anyone can "control" the flow of information to him, or his psakim, in the manner that you're implying. At a minimum I think it's fair to assume that if a psak is issued in his name, and publicized, and not retracted, it is accurate and carries the appropriate force of a psak from someone of his stature, whether or not you are "interested" in believing it or not. (And I'm confident he would see you and answer your question if you asked him directly about his psak!)

Lurker: Since you seem interested primarily in hurling invective, and I'm interested primarily in sharing temperate points of view, I don't think there is any point in continuing to dialogue with you. Bye!

Lurker said...

Eli: ...I don't think there is any point in continuing to dialogue with you. Bye!

The typical cop-out of someone who defends the indefensible, is called on it, and has nothing to answer to defend his position.

First you defend UTJ's hypocrisy in allowing the transfer of Gush Katif graves, while opposing the transfer of Ashkelon graves.

When I challenged you on the blatant discrepancy, you respond with a red herring, saying that moving graves is incomparable to moving people -- which is a complete non sequiter, since nobody at all here is talking about moving people, but rather graves.

Once again: I challenge you explain why the same halakhic principles you mentioned, that forbid moving the graves in Ashkelon, did not also forbid moving the graves in Gush Katif.

If you are unable to answer that simple question, then any intelligent reader can draw the uncomfortably obvious conclusions...

JoeSettler said...

Lurker: The answer a previous commenter gave was Kavod Hameis. Presumably that the Arabs would have desecrated the bodies if they had been left there (which they would have done).

A more interesting question is that supposedly the UTJ rabbis (including Rav Elyashiv?) ordered the UTJ MKs to vote against the Disengagement - I would presume on halachic grounds.

Litzman excused himself from the vote (instead of voting no) and is quoted in multiple places stating that in political issues one needn't listen to the Rabbis.

Anonymous said...


I don't understand. JoeSettler said that it's hypocritical for UTJ to support digging up graves in Gush Katif, and then to complain that it's assur in Ashkelon. And that certainly sounds hypocritical to me.

You argued that it isn't hypocritical, because UTJ's position in Ashkelon is "based on halachic principles". And when Lurker asked you why the same halachic priciples don't apply to both sets of graves, you answered by saying that people are different than graves -- which doesn't make any sense at all, since moving people has nothing to do with the subject here.

I also would like to know your answer to Lurker's questions: Why didn't the same issur against moving graves apply in Gush Katif? Why do you say that UTJ isn't hypocritical for taking the opposite of their earlier position in the case of Ashkelon?

Lurker said...

JoeSettler: The answer a previous commenter gave was Kavod Hameis. Presumably that the Arabs would have desecrated the bodies if they had been left there (which they would have done).

Then Litzman and his party could have dealt with this by opposing the pullout -- which, as you pointed out, was exactly what their rabbis told them to do -- but they didn't. Which was not exactly a surprise, coming from someone who openly declared that he has no obligation to obey the Gedolim in the case of "political matters". Apparently the only person left who actually believes that Litzman's political positions are based on instructions from the rabbis -- in spite of Litzman's own explicit denial of this -- is Eli...

JoeSettler said...

So not only could the UTJ have prevented the uprooting of graves in Gush Katif (an uncrossable red line for them). But they could have prevented a war (or 2), saved the country a billion shekels, and ensured that 8000 people weren't uprooted from their lives, their yeshivas and shuls destroyed, and their livelihoods obliterated.

But most importantly, voting no would have prevented the uprooting of graves - an uncrossable red line.

Lurker said...

And here's the biggest irony of all:

By preventing the Gaza pullout, UTJ could have prevented the very need to build a new gigantic underground emergency room in Ashkelon today, protected from Gaza missle attacks.

And then they would have no cause for fretting about the moving of graves.

Shira said...

Eli the psak Litzman got was for Litzman and his party, not you or me. About how to vote on a certain issue. You want to take for yourself a psak that wasn't addressed to you, go ahead - but that also violates halachic principles. If you were the hospital administrator you might have gotten an entirely different psak on the same issue. It happens, and the Gedolim know what they're doing when they do that also.

But some here have suggested there's a political agenda in freaking out over the graves rather than building an emergency room. To me it just seems disconnected to the reality of Israeli society and needs. Can someone formulate this specific political agenda?

Eli Willner said...

Shira, I'm not sure I understand your point. The psak that was issued wasn't specific to Rabbi Litzman, but it *was* specific to that particular gravesite in its particular circumstances.

Other circumstances (such as those pertaining to gravesites in Gush Katif) would have (and perhaps did) received a psak specific to them - again, not specific to the questioner but to the circumstance.

As for why this circumstance got a different psak than that circumstance, I have no idea. I'm not here to second-guess Rav Eliashiv. And, unlike others, I'm certainly not here to jump to the conclusion that the difference is due to "hypocrisy". I can think of numerous plausible differences that *might* have been factors. Anyone who hurls the word "hypocrisy" at a psak issued by Rav Eliashiv is obviously ignoring those potential factors. And, equally obviously, is pandering to an agenda, not coming to a reasoned conclusion.

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