Ultra-Orthodox figures on Wednesday pushed to halt renovation work on Ben Gurion International Airport runways after the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered ancient graves at the site.
"Disorder in the area of the runways, or even close by, could disrupt flights to Israel," an airline industry source said. "No airline will fly to an airport where there is violent disorder."
Renovation and widening work was recently begun on the runways to improve safety. One runway was due to be lengthened, which would enable one runway to be designated for takeoff and the other for landing.
A few days ago, Antiquities Authority workers discovered the ancient graves at the site of the renovations. On Wednesday it appeared that haredi figures had been informed – the same groups that had tried to prevent the construction of the ER room at the Barzilai Medical Center (Ashkelon) and are now demonstrating in Jaffa against construction at a site in which other graves have been discovered.
New 'graves affair'?
Initial investigations suggest that the newly discovered graves are not Jewish. However, the Airports Authority has begun receiving telephone calls which suggest a new "graves affair" is developing.
The site of the graves was to be included in the renovation work only in the second stage, in over a year's time. Nonetheless, the religious figures are demanding the work be halted now, for fear of harming the graves. The Airports Authority is investing some NIS 800 million ($210 million) into the renovation and extension works.
Even though this site is within the "sterile" area of the airport, protected by a security fence and armed patrols, authorities fear haredi groups may attempt to enter to prevent the work from continuing.
The Airports Authority held an emergency meeting Wednesday, with the participation of Chairman Ovadia Ali and Director-General Kobi Mor. Various solutions were discussed in case the Haredi groups insisted that work be completely halted on the site.
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