JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS PROTEST AGAINST BUILDING A FOOTBALL FIELD ON THE PLACE OF OLD JEWISH CEMETERY
Yury Dorn, head of Jewish Association, says the cemetery is the burial place for about 14,000 people. According to Dorn, such disrespect to religious and historical sanctities forced a number of Jewish organizations to address International and European Football Federations with a call to boycott Belarusian football teams. According to Yury Dorn, some members of the US Congress decided to call on the Olympic committee to boycott Belarus in the next Olympic Games, if the authorities do not stop building a football field on the cemetery.
It seems, such an international pressure had its effect, forcing Hrodna authorities to start negotiations with Jewish organizations, Yury Dorn told RFDE/RL, Uladzimir Sawchanka, head of Hrodna region executive committee agreed to come to Minsk office of the Association on 18 August and start negotiations. This was the result of the negotiations between the Belarusian Embassy to Israel and Chief Rabbin for Belarus Sender Urytski.
Foreign Jewish organizations plan to picket the Belarusian embassy in the United States and the Belarusian Embassy in Israel this week.
Urytski: We are talking about religious circles in Europe, Israel, and America, which are indignant about the situation in Hrodna. It is not a tendentious attitude to Belarus. The cemetery is dishallowed. This led to manifestations. Jewish cemetery in Hrodna is sanctity of Jewish history of the last 500 years. Many righteous Jews and religious teachers are buried there. But this is not the main thing. The main point is that this is a cemetery, and the plans of the authorities show their real attitude to the Jewish religion and history.
The Orthodox hallow their cemeteries as well. I think such actions are relicts of the Soviet times. Not once I explained the local officials, what it meant to destroy a cemetery. First time they lied to me, second time they stopped the construction works for two weeks and then renewed them, leaving us uninformed. Such things happen not only in Hrodna. This is a post-Soviet throw-back, hard to get rid of. Their attitude forced us to bring the problem at such a high level. It turns out the local officials have no idea want the situation means from the viewpoint of the legislation on religion, as well as the international response it can get.
Sender Urytski, chief Rabbin for Belarus, says recently they have found common language with authorities. He hopes they will be able to reach a compromise on the issue of Jewish cemetery in Hrodna.