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Jerusalem - Neglected Sanhedrin Tombs in Dire Need of Resturation

Published on: January 14, 2010 04:01 PM
By:  Haaretz
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Sanhedrin TombsJerusalem - If ever you want to find the Sanhedrin Tombs in northern Jerusalem, don’t use the half-lira bill from the 1950s as your guide.

That banknote depicted an impressive burial site from the Second Temple period, which the Israel Antiquities Authority calls “one of the most important antiquities sites in Jerusalem and in the country as a whole.” But today it is neglected, unmarked, and covered with graffiti and soot - and the bureaucratic bickering about who’s responsible indicates that isn’t likely to change any time soon.

The ultra-Orthodox residents of Sanhedria, the neighborhood where the tombs are located, have expressed little interest in maintaining the ancient burial caves, though they were recently cleaned up by a group of Russian-speaking immigrants who have little connection to Judaism. However, the dirt quickly accumulated once more and the signposts they put up have been removed.

Rafi Kasimov, who coordinates the Land of Israel program for Russian speakers at the Conservative movement’s Schechter Institutes, called on the ultra-Orthodox to join his students’ attempt to restore the site.

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“It’s a paradox that Russian speakers, all of them very far removed from tradition, who eat pork, came in their own free time to clean a grave that is located in the middle of an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood,” said Kasimov.

Since the 1950s, the caves have been surrounded by a forest planted by the Jerusalem municipality. However, while the forest is well-maintained and relatively clean, the caves have become a target of vandals. Many of the burial caves are covered with graffiti and some are covered in soot from fires that were lit nearby. It is difficult to read the inscriptions that adorn the entrance to the main cave because of the layers of dirt and weeds covering it.

Members of the group contacted the Jerusalem municipality to seek support, but the municipality merely provided garbage bags and gloves. The group cleaned the main burial cave and posted signs there in Hebrew, English and Russian.

A week later the signs were removed. The municipality said individuals are not legally permitted to post signs there, but has not put up new signs.

“Signs must be posted here so that local residents will realize that they have an asset here,” said Kasimov. “I call on all the ultra-Orthodox people who protest outside the Intel plant and throw stones to come here. What could be better than cleaning a Jewish grave site?”

However, the municipality said it was not responsible for the tombs where the 71 scholars of the Great Sanhedrin, the highest court of ancient Israel, are said to be buried. The site, called “the tomb of the judges” in Arabic, has 71 burial niches.

“Due to numerous queries regarding the filth and pollution inside the grave complex, there was a cleanup of the area, and now the site is closed to prevent dirt and vandalism,” the municipality said in a statement. It said the Sanhedrin tomb site is the responsibility of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Religious Services Ministry.

However, the Israel Antiquities Authority said it does not “maintain or operate” the site.

“The Sanhedrin Tombs are part of a park set up by the Jerusalem municipality,” the authority said. “Responsibility for maintaining the park, as well the other public parks in the city, lies with the Jerusalem municipality. Unfortunately, the municipality is not doing enough to preserve and maintain this important site. The Israel Antiquities Authority’s appeals to the municipality regarding this matter have yet to be addressed. It is only fitting that a budget be found to refurbish the site, which is among the most important antiquities sites in Jerusalem and in the country as a whole.”



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Read Comments (23)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 14, 2010 at 04:19 PM Anonymous Says:

If an ultra-Orthodox woman is afraid to be caught sweeping her front step by a nosy neighbor or (chas v'shalom) cleaning her own windows, (!) none of her children will be able to find good shidduchim because of her disgrace, how is she expected to sweep up the holy graves of the Sanhedrin? The only solution? Import foreign workers to do the jobs that are too dirty for the choshuve residents of Yerushalayim. It is so logical, it is painful.

2

 Jan 14, 2010 at 04:24 PM Milhouse Says:

There is no tradition or any reason to believe that these tombs have anything to do with the Sanhedrin.

3

 Jan 14, 2010 at 04:36 PM Anonymous Says:

Just an idea: Let someone start a rumor about a segula at that site... you'll see how quickly they'll turn it into a national attraction.

4

 Jan 14, 2010 at 05:07 PM Chaim Says:

The reason the careidim don't do anything is because of the doubt if they were actually buried there.... correct me if im wrong

5

 Jan 14, 2010 at 05:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Ah charpa und a busha

6

 Jan 14, 2010 at 05:29 PM Askupeh Says:

I wasn't aware that there are inscriptions that adorn the entrance to the main cave, and that it has 71 burial niches. Is that the proof that it is the burial place of the Sanhedrin or is there other proof? As members of the Sanhedrin died where were they put? In another complex of 71 burial niches?

Does anyone know what the inscription says on the entrance?

7

 Jan 14, 2010 at 05:32 PM Chuchem Says:

let someone put a small sign "Do Not Disturb Archeology persons on site". The Bedadatz and all the stone throwers will be there in mass protest. Maybe then the Kanuim will take care of these kedoshim.

8

 Jan 14, 2010 at 05:32 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #4  
Chaim Says:

The reason the careidim don't do anything is because of the doubt if they were actually buried there.... correct me if im wrong

And if it's only a Sofek, isn't it a good enough reason to take care of the place? This is Eretz Yisroel after all! I guess only us Golus Yiden get excited about Eretz Yisroel.

9

 Jan 14, 2010 at 05:46 PM Anonymous Says:

There a too many kevorim in EY to invest the time and money to keep them well maintained. Its not even clear exactly who is buried in these tombs. Lets take the limited resources available from the Antiquities Authority and the Municipal government of yerushalayim and concentrate them on maintaining the kevorim of the gadolim. With no disrepect to whomever is buried here, there simply aren't enough shekels to go around so we have to focus on the chashuve rabbonim.

10

 Jan 14, 2010 at 05:55 PM Anonymous Says:

71 scholars of the Great Sanhedrin, of which sanhedrin?

11

 Jan 14, 2010 at 06:03 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Milhouse Says:

There is no tradition or any reason to believe that these tombs have anything to do with the Sanhedrin.

That's funny, the last I checked there were large protests over what was probably a Roman grave site that the gedolim were saying to be Jewish, and there was no mesorah there, so why not here? 71 niches alone is a pretty convenient number for such a thing, no?

12

 Jan 14, 2010 at 06:53 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

There a too many kevorim in EY to invest the time and money to keep them well maintained. Its not even clear exactly who is buried in these tombs. Lets take the limited resources available from the Antiquities Authority and the Municipal government of yerushalayim and concentrate them on maintaining the kevorim of the gadolim. With no disrepect to whomever is buried here, there simply aren't enough shekels to go around so we have to focus on the chashuve rabbonim.

i am assuming you are being sarcastic here. you are somehow saying that any chashuv rov should overide the sanhedrin (assuming htis is a sanhedrin burail ground, which i doubt). are you are crack?!?! we dont have a rov in the last 1000 years who even clame close to the smallest dayan in the sanhedrins history!

13

 Jan 14, 2010 at 06:51 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

71 scholars of the Great Sanhedrin, of which sanhedrin?

“ 71 scholars of the Great Sanhedrin, of which sanhedrin?”

The reconstituted sanhedrin as described in a recent VIN article. They have actually drawn up plans for a bayis shlishi with all sorts of modern amenitites including parking and broadband access.

14

 Jan 14, 2010 at 07:15 PM Common Sense Says:

If there is a doubt as to who is buried there, why dont we (frum yidden) settle the doubt and find out for certain. Either it is the burial ground for members of the sanhedrin - if so, who are they. If its not, then issue a statement saying - this is not the burial ground of any of the sanhedrin (the inscription is after all in Arabic according to the article). Also, if it is possible to find out that they were not Jewish, then that would enable Cohanim to visit the park there too.

15

 Jan 14, 2010 at 07:17 PM Yankel Pipik Says:

There is no one buried there. These are limestone crypts that were used to speed the decomposition of the flesh after which the bones were removed and buried elsewhere.

16

 Jan 14, 2010 at 07:20 PM Lisa Says:

WEll, why dont they put up a number or place where we can reach someone if we wanted to give money to that cause? I tried looking for Dr Rafi Kasimov's number and I cant find anything..

17

 Jan 14, 2010 at 07:30 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

i am assuming you are being sarcastic here. you are somehow saying that any chashuv rov should overide the sanhedrin (assuming htis is a sanhedrin burail ground, which i doubt). are you are crack?!?! we dont have a rov in the last 1000 years who even clame close to the smallest dayan in the sanhedrins history!

"We dont have a rov in the last 1000 years who even clame close to the smallest dayan in the sanhedrins history!”

The full moon must be bringing out all the am'hartzen tonight. Are you suggesting that Rashi, the Rambam, the Chofetz Chayim, the Lubavitcher and Satmar rebbes, Rav Moshe Feinstein, etc. were chopped liver. Why do you make such disrepectful and naresh comments about the gadolim of the past several hundred years and compare them to minor dayans from the sanhedrin.

18

 Jan 14, 2010 at 07:52 PM Anonymous Says:

Truly a disgrace, a charpa and a busha! That the ultra-orthodox, in their neighborhood, do not care about the holy resting place of such Kdoshim, then what is there to say. There should be an outcry to the municipality to do its job - this is holy work! These Russian Jews who for 70 years were denied any kind of yiddishkeit, but they are the true heroes here for their great mitzvah and thus will be rewarded - a yasher koach to them.

19

 Jan 14, 2010 at 08:56 PM morton avigdor Says:

Those crypts are empty. There are no bones or remains.In those days they would temporarily bury the bodies and months later after decomposition the bones were reburied in stone boxes.Just look at the mishnayos in Taharos.It is a queasy topic to be sure but that was the custom in those days.Practically speaking though there are no Meisim there. It might be a sight of hisorical interest but it is not in my mind a compelling Tzedaka.

20

 Jan 15, 2010 at 01:51 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #19  
morton avigdor Says:

Those crypts are empty. There are no bones or remains.In those days they would temporarily bury the bodies and months later after decomposition the bones were reburied in stone boxes.Just look at the mishnayos in Taharos.It is a queasy topic to be sure but that was the custom in those days.Practically speaking though there are no Meisim there. It might be a sight of hisorical interest but it is not in my mind a compelling Tzedaka.

there actually were people buried there but they were plundered over 100 years ago. Kohanim will avoid the area because of this reason. However the assumption that it is the sanhedrin is ludocrous at best it is only based on the number of crypts, nothing else.

21

 Jan 16, 2010 at 09:46 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

That's funny, the last I checked there were large protests over what was probably a Roman grave site that the gedolim were saying to be Jewish, and there was no mesorah there, so why not here? 71 niches alone is a pretty convenient number for such a thing, no?

What's so convenient about it? If these were niches for bodies to lie for a year and then be removed to a permanent ossuary, then why would the Sanhedrin need 71? How many members could be expected to die in a year? And if they were intended as permanent graves, then how could 71 be enough? The Sanhedrin had many more than 71 members over the many centuries of its existence! Besides which, why would the Sanhedrin members want to be buried together rather than with their respective families? The whole idea doesn't make any sense.

22

 Jan 16, 2010 at 09:46 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

That's funny, the last I checked there were large protests over what was probably a Roman grave site that the gedolim were saying to be Jewish, and there was no mesorah there, so why not here? 71 niches alone is a pretty convenient number for such a thing, no?

Probably? According to whom?

23

 Jan 16, 2010 at 09:48 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
Anonymous Says:

"We dont have a rov in the last 1000 years who even clame close to the smallest dayan in the sanhedrins history!”

The full moon must be bringing out all the am'hartzen tonight. Are you suggesting that Rashi, the Rambam, the Chofetz Chayim, the Lubavitcher and Satmar rebbes, Rav Moshe Feinstein, etc. were chopped liver. Why do you make such disrepectful and naresh comments about the gadolim of the past several hundred years and compare them to minor dayans from the sanhedrin.

Um, what makes you think the original poster is wrong? Im horishonim kemal'ochim...

24

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