Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Haredi-only archaeological site?

IF ACCURATE, this story is disturbing:
Modi'in Ilit mayor: Secular Israelis unwelcome at our historic sites

An archeological site, Khirbet Bad-Issa, in the West Bank city will only open to Haredi visitors.

By Yair Ettinger | Aug.21, 2012 | 7:42 AM

An archaeological site in the heart of the ultra-Orthodox West Bank city of Modi'in Ilit will be open only to Haredi visitors, says the city's mayor.

The government is currently in the process of developing the site, which is believed to have been an agricultural village from the Second Temple period. It is now known as Khirbet Bad-Issa.


The excavation persisted, however, and eventually revealed a farming village from the Second Temple period. In the center was a synagogue, which has since been partially restored. Also uncovered in the excavations was a winepress, a ritual bath, homes and large public and private buildings. A collection of 145 Roman coins from the first century C.E. was also found.

I don't pretend to understand the ins and outs of Israeli archaeological politics, but I am surprised that this kind of limit can be enforced after Israeli taxpayers have put so much money into the site. I would want my money back! Whether or not this community has the technical legal right to exclude non-Haredi visitors, I contest their moral right to do so. As with all archaeology, these relics are the historical heritage not only of all Jews, but of all humanity, and should be treated as such.

UPDATE: Blowback already:
Modi'in threatens to ban ultra-Orthodox from park, after nearby town bars seculars from heritage site

Mayor of mostly secular Modi'in threatens to close city park to ultra-Orthodox visitors if Modi'in Ilit doesn't reverse decision on national heritage site.

By Yair Ettinger | Aug.21, 2012 | 1:06 PM | 2

Modi'in Ilit Mayor Yaakov Gutterman's statement that the archeological site in the city will only be open to ultra-Orthodox visitors is drawing fire from the neighboring city of Modi'in.

Modi'in Mayor Haim Bibas threatened Tuesday morning to close his city's central park to ultra-Orthodox visitors if Gutterman doesn't take back his statement to the Haredi newspaper Yated Neeman.


In a letter Bibas sent Gutterman Tuesday morning, he wrote: "National heritage sites are places central to the history of the Jewish people and should be open to everyone, whatever their worldview or religious affiliation may be."
Which is pretty much what I said above.
"As you know," Bibas wrote. "Two years ago, we inaugurated the Aneba Park in Modi'in – the city's central park. Since it opened, thousands of Modi'in Ilit-Kiryat Sefer residents have visited it, since your city doesn't provide adequate family recreation facilities. Up to now, I have refrained from discriminating between ultra-Orthodox and secular visitors, despite the multitude of petitions by Modi'in residents complaining that the park is being taken from them."

Bibas finished his letter with a threat: "If the municipality you head doesn't reverse its decision and will in fact bar secular visitors, the city of Modi'in will bar residents of your municipality entrance to Aneba Park."
This is developing into an interesting conversation.

(HT to reader Yehoshua Rabinowitz for the second article.)