Five Ashkelon residents petitioned the High Court of Justice on Tuesday, demanding that the construction of a fortified emergency room at Barzilai Hospital in the city be resumed.
The construction was halted by the Prime Minister's Office and Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Cohen, who denied the hospital a construction permit because of an ancient cemetery located on the intended land. The government claims the graves cannot be moved despite the fact that the Chief Rabbinate permitted it.
The petitioners claim the halt in construction places Ashkelon's residents in grave danger due to the rocket threat in the area.
"We cannot have a hospital that is under constant rocket threat aiming to paralyze it remain exposed and unfortified until the conflict between the different factions in the ultra-Orthodox public is solved," the petition says.
The government ordered the hospital to be fortified and expanded a number of years ago, including the construction of a fortified emergency room and an underground bomb shelter.
But just as the construction was scheduled to get underway, an investigation on the scene unearthed the remains of ancient gravesites. The project was therefore brought to a halt six months ago and a team headed by the minister of religious affairs established to find a solution.
The Chief Rabbinate approved the transfer of the graves once it was established that no alternate site could be found for the fortified structures, but the decision sparked a massive protest within the ultra-Orthodox public.
Rabbis from within the sector published halacha verses arguing against the moving of the cemetery and calling the decision "a cynical abuse of the war". Deliberations in the rabbinate are scheduled to continue until Wednesday, when the sides hope a solution will be found.
A rabbinate source familiar with the case told Ynet that "if the goal is to renew construction as soon as possible then everything should be done to please 'Atra Kadisha' and the 'Association for the Prevention of Grave Desecration'. It's clear that despite the decision there was no chance to further the plans in the next two years; these guys would never let it happen. They are a real Taliban bunch."
Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report