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Istanbul - Bizarre Case: Turkish Chief Rabbi Accused of Grave Desecration

Published on: October 27, 2009 12:53 PM
By: VIN News By Benjamin Slobodkin
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Istanbul, Turkey - A dramatic suit before the Conference of European Rabbis Beis Din alleges Rav Yitzhak Haleva, chief rabbi of Turkey, is directly responsible for the desecration of ancient cemeteries in Istanbul.

According to the scathing claim, filed by Israeli journalist Shaul Schiff, in recent years every effort has been made to persuade Rav Haleva, 69, to refrain from grave desecration, yet the problem persists. Schiff’s attorneys assert this is the first time in Jewish history such a case has been filed, saying malevolent non-Jews were always the ones to blame for such acts.



Read here the accusation documents HEBREW

English here

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But in this case, which is scheduled to be heard by a bench headed by HaRav Yitzchok Ehrentrau according to a Kikar HaShabbat report , Rav Haleva has been charged with issuing direct orders to carry out various projects that resulted in flagrant grave desecration. The charges are especially troubling since the Smichas Chachomim, Machaneh Efro’im, Mishneh Lemelech and other gaonei olom lay buried in the three Istanbul cemeteries that were allegedly harmed.

Members of a rabbinical delegation who visited one of the sites two years ago were “horrified” by the damage they witnessed, Schiff alleges. “The delegation members saw skeletal remains in a pile of dirt,” reads the account written by his attorneys. “According to two world-renown experts with decades of experience, the broken skeleton found in a pile of dirt and recently removed from its original grave was estimated to be 300 years old.”

The rabbonim ruled on the spot that the entire pile of dirt containing the bones had the status of a meis mitzvah and immediately set about reburying the bones and dirt.

Schiff claims that at the Ortakoy Cemetery structures were built on gravesites, at the Kuzkuncuk Cemetery graves were dug on existing gravesites and at the Haskoy Cemetery ancient gravesites were cleared to make room for the construction of a funeral parlor. In some cases gravestones of halacha giants have vanished inexplicably.

To prevent visitors from observing and documenting the damage, at Ortakoy non-Jewish guards have been posted, a rabbinical source familiar with cemetery desecration told VIN News.

Members of the local Jewish community claim the extensive construction work underway is not prohibited by halacha, but Schiff questions how building a road over ancient gravesites could be permissible.

Schiff’s attorneys are asking the beis din to summon the defendants – Rav Haleva, his son Naftali and Kehillat Eitz Chaim – prohibit them from conducting burials in the ancient cemeteries, compel them to stop overseeing Turkey’s cemeteries and force them to cover renovation costs.


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Read Comments (16)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 27, 2009 at 01:15 PM Askupeh Says:

Are they accusing negligence as it was in Bayside Queens Cemetery, or is the accusation of willful destruction of graves for monetary gain? It would have interested me anyway, but it affects me personally as a descendant of the Smichas Chachmim (Rabbi Naftoli Katz) ZT”L.

BTW former president of Israel Yitzchok Navon is a direct descendant of the Machneh Efrayim Rabbi Efrayim Navon ZT”L.

2

 Oct 27, 2009 at 01:21 PM Anonymous Says:

The local rav would know best what is and what is not allowed so why would we be taking the word of a journalist over the word of a respected rav and talmid chacham.

3

 Oct 27, 2009 at 01:58 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

The local rav would know best what is and what is not allowed so why would we be taking the word of a journalist over the word of a respected rav and talmid chacham.

We are taking no ones words we are taking it in front of a bet din of respectful rabbis
Don't forget that those were from the biggest sages klal yisrual had
Not to mention the fact that rabbi naftoli katz has many thousands desandents even between Ashkanazi jews

4

 Oct 27, 2009 at 07:45 PM Anonymous Says:

What i dont get is what is the motive??? can anyone explain why someone would desecrate the graves- whats their to gain?

5

 Oct 27, 2009 at 07:45 PM Anonymous Says:

II have seen pictures of the desecration. I have also spoken to a talmid Chacham who saw it personally.

6

 Oct 27, 2009 at 06:41 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

The local rav would know best what is and what is not allowed so why would we be taking the word of a journalist over the word of a respected rav and talmid chacham.

Who respects him?

7

 Oct 27, 2009 at 09:13 PM hmmm Says:

It's a pretty grave accusation here.

8

 Oct 27, 2009 at 08:54 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

What i dont get is what is the motive??? can anyone explain why someone would desecrate the graves- whats their to gain?

Read the article. This is valuable real estate, and creating "new" plots to sell can makea lot of money.

9

 Oct 27, 2009 at 10:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Milhouse Says:

Read the article. This is valuable real estate, and creating "new" plots to sell can makea lot of money.

It is apikorsus to suggest that the Harav Haleva, Shilta and the Turkish Kehillat are selfishly engaged in efforts to make "a lot of money" by digging up the gravesites to make new ones. Even if this were the case, if there is limited land for yiddeshe burials in a goyishe country than they have to do whatever the local rav says is best under the circumstances. Either way, you should seek mechila from this rav for maligning his motives.

10

 Oct 28, 2009 at 07:25 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

It is apikorsus to suggest that the Harav Haleva, Shilta and the Turkish Kehillat are selfishly engaged in efforts to make "a lot of money" by digging up the gravesites to make new ones. Even if this were the case, if there is limited land for yiddeshe burials in a goyishe country than they have to do whatever the local rav says is best under the circumstances. Either way, you should seek mechila from this rav for maligning his motives.

Why do you say this is apikorsus? You might accuse the writer of rechilut, disrespect of Rabanim, and perhaps other things, but I do not believe this falls within the definition of apikorsus.

If you read the accusation documents (at least the English one) you will see that other poskim have weighed in on this. In particular, the document says that Rav Shlomo Amar said what they are doing is not mutar.

11

 Oct 28, 2009 at 08:05 AM i will help Says:

I am willing to pay to reinterr the above mentioned gedolim to Eretz Yisroel. I can be reached at njproxy@gmail.com

12

 Oct 28, 2009 at 12:06 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

It is apikorsus to suggest that the Harav Haleva, Shilta and the Turkish Kehillat are selfishly engaged in efforts to make "a lot of money" by digging up the gravesites to make new ones. Even if this were the case, if there is limited land for yiddeshe burials in a goyishe country than they have to do whatever the local rav says is best under the circumstances. Either way, you should seek mechila from this rav for maligning his motives.

Why should I respect this Haleva character? Who on earth is he? I'll bet you had never heard of him before this article, and your indignation is entirely fake.

13

 Oct 29, 2009 at 11:44 AM Anonymous Says:

If, chas v'chalilah, these accusations are true - there are no words for such a disgraceful chilul HaShem! There is nothing worse than desecrating Kavod Hameis! There are no words. Even if this Rav himself is not the culprit, then why would he and the community have allowed it to get this far. Something is very wrong! Hopefully, they will fix this matter immediately for the the kavod hameis and their families!

14

 Oct 29, 2009 at 01:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

If, chas v'chalilah, these accusations are true - there are no words for such a disgraceful chilul HaShem! There is nothing worse than desecrating Kavod Hameis! There are no words. Even if this Rav himself is not the culprit, then why would he and the community have allowed it to get this far. Something is very wrong! Hopefully, they will fix this matter immediately for the the kavod hameis and their families!

I am pretty sure there are things worse than desecrating Kavod Hameis. Murder comes to mind, as well as Avodah Zarah and Arayos. I would think Chillul Shabbos is worse, given that Chillus Shabbos is chayav misah, whereas what happened here probably isn't. Granted, if this is true than it is truly bad, but put it in perspective.

15

 Oct 30, 2009 at 12:04 PM Anonymous Says:

To No. 14 - We are not comparing apples and oranges here. We are talking about human civility - Derech eretz, menschlickeit. No yid should ever know of such a desecration. Sure, you or anyone would not be sleeping at night if c'v something of such an evil nature would occur to a member of a family. It is a disgraceful act that befits savages. Hopefully, this rav and his community had no part in it and are innocent!

16

 Nov 24, 2009 at 11:46 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

What i dont get is what is the motive??? can anyone explain why someone would desecrate the graves- whats their to gain?

The cemetery is in one of the most expensive neiburhoods in istanbul, and the land belongs to the Jewish Community

17

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