The haredi community is outraged over media coverage of the Barzilai Medical Center emergency room's relocation due to the discovery of ancient graves, a former Knesset member told Ynet Monday.
JournalistYisrael Eichler charged that the secular media used the opportunity to weave a blood libel against the haredim.
"All pagan societies have done this to us before Passover," he said. "Also in Israel."
According to Eichler, who is currently serving as the chairman of the Center for Jewish Publicity, "Just as Ramat Shlomo is not the reason behind the American onslaught but just another pretext for bringing Jerusalem up, so is Litzman's plan for Barzilai just another opportunity to attack the haredi public in the most anti-Semitic way possible."
Eichler claimed that those opposed to the relocation of the Ashkelon hospital's emergency room, including the media, made "demagogic claims and Soviet-style lies," none of which spoke to the point.
Furthermore, claimed Eichler, many roads in Israel have been twisted and distorted so as to avoid desecrating old graves.
"On the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway, everyone makes that turn near Shaar Hagai just because of some sheikh that is supposedly buried there," he said. "There are also hundreds of sites where millions were spent so that bucks and deer could continue to run free in nature."
Eichler rejected claims that the Barzilai case is one of saving lives, which supersedes other mitzvoth in Judaism.
"The distance between the emergency room is more than 100 meters in many other hospitals," he said.
The established haredi newspapers did not provide broad coverage of the affair, mainly due to internal sectoral political considerations, but haredi websites have picked up the slack. Kikar HaShabbat's website reviewed the affair's coverage in the secular press and noted, "None of the front pages of the daily newspapers had even one article by a religious or haredi Jew explaining Litzman's just struggle."
Regarding front-page headlines, Kikar HaShabbat claimed: "It is entirely unclear when the main headline of an important newspaper became a personal opinion… the message is clear: We have an outrageous, disconnected government that capitulates to the haredim and that needs to be replaced, and quickly."
Haredi reporter Menachem Katz took on Yair Lapid, who published an article on the issue earlier.
"Someone should remind Lapid, who in the past said he does not care if his body is cremated and placed in an urn, that here we respect the dead," he wrote.
During Channel 10 News' main item, newscaster Yaakov Ayalon made a slip of tongue while transitioning between an analysis of the affair and an interview with Ashkelon's mayor, saying "now we will move from haredim to people." After Channel 10 apologized, Ayalon interviewed for haredi radio Kol Barama and explained that he meant to say "from graves to people," but that the words got mixed up.
More aggravating to the Orthodox community was haredi journalist Kobi Arieli who called Litzman a "loser" and a "pervert" on Army Radio, claimed the decision "stinks," and called for the deputy health minister to resign. Following the storm that he kicked up, he interviewed for Radio Kol Hai and took back his "loser" statement, but continued to criticize the haredi side on the matter.
'Center against harediophobia'
Meanwhile, a "Center against Harediophobia" was established with the objective of putting an end to the situation where "haredi blood is shed with no consequence," according to the founders' words, or at least to enforce compliance with the basic rules of ethics and fairness towards haredim.
The center's staff promises to take action against "anti-haredi racism in the media, courts, and government decisions."
The center's first statement issued Tuesday claimed that were the decision on Barzilai not made by a haredi minister, the media and the Left would have "cheered the government for being sensitive to the graves and showing morals and tolerance to the helpless."
The statement continued: "When a right-wing government and a haredi (deputy) health minister passed a decision that was already passed by the leftist Olmert government, the liberals went on the attack as if he had sold the country to religion. Is there an explanation for this besides harediophobia and the barrier presented by the beard and kippah worn by Deputy Minister Litzman?"