The Tzohar rabbis' organization on Monday appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a demand that he order the evacuation of the graves located near the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and the renewal of construction of the fortified emergency room at the site.
In a document to the prime minister and other bodies involved in the affair, the rabbis ruled that the graves in question fall under the halachic ruling that "a grave that damages or interferes with the rights of the public can be removed", and that they should therefore be relocated in a dignified manner.
The Tzohar rabbis highlighted in their letter the relevant halachic principles supporting their position. They noted that graves may be relocated in various cases for "the good of the public" including the expansion of synagogues or other public buildings.
The organization stressed that this permit can only be applied retroactively, and construction on such a site must not be planned in advance.
The letter also stated that: "It has been written that if the 'ruler' has the right to confiscate land, then a situation is created in which the dead is 'buried in a grave that is not his own', and this in itself is a just cause for evacuation. Indeed, it is not clear if these words apply to a Jewish 'ruler' or only a foreign one."
The letter went on to outline other general principles: "Graves must not be evacuated for general purposes, like using the ground for living or trade etc; when there is an evacuation permit it also applies to cemeteries and not just individual graves.
"Paving a road or building on an existing grave is considered a 'great disgrace' and has additional obstacles; the evacuation of a burial site must be done with the utmost caution and respect, in a solemn manner and by God-fearing people who are experts on the matter, even if the graves are of foreigners."
In the event that the committee which was formed to examine the issue decides not to immediately renew construction at the site, the Tzohar rabbis have requested to be informed of its arguments in order to consider their next steps.
The organization's chairman, Rabbi David Stav said at a visit to the site several months ago that the group sees no logical option of relocating the building, as this would involve high costs and a delay in construction.