Belarus allows construction of luxury homes atop Jewish cemeteries

The bones of Jews “will end up in city dumpsters,” laments an activist fighting to stop construction of luxury apartments over Jewish cemeteries in Belarus, according to a JTA report.

A court in Belarus has rejected a motion to prevent construction of apartments atop two former Jewish cemeteries, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported.

Construction of apartments above a former Jewish cemetery in Gomel, eastern Belarus will take place despite a motion filed against the building plans by an American Jewish activist for the preservation of Jewish heritage sites in his native country.

The ruling at the Tsentralny District Court allowing continuation of the housing projects both in Gomel and Mazyr means that the bones of Jews “will end up in city dumpsters,” Yakov Goodman, who filed the motion, told JTA.

Last year, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makai and Lesley Weiss, chair of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, signed a joint declaration at the World Jewish Congress headquarters, stating, “Each party will take appropriate steps to protect and preserve properties that represent the cultural heritage of all national, religious, or ethnic groups that reside or resided in its territory,” according to JTA.

Goodman, however, believes that the signing has encouraged authorities “to further attacks on Jewish heritage sites,” the report said.

This was not Goodman’s first squabble with Belarusian authorities. Before that signing, he accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of destroying three synagogues and at least two cemeteries in addition to Gomel and Mazyr.

Goodman, who was arrested in 2004, says local Jews are afraid of fighting the issue.

“Under Lukashenko, Jewish heritage suffered irreparable losses,” he stated, adding that he may still fight the ruling, the JTA report said.

For their part, Gomel’s urban housing and communal services department told the court, “There is no information about the location of the cemetery in this place,” the report continued, adding that the claim was disputed by several historians, including Evgeny Malikov, who joined Goodman in accusing authorities of discrimination against Jews.

In March, several human rights organizations slammed Belarusian authorities for the arrest of tens of journalists following a wave of nationwide protests.

Lukashenko’s authoritarian leadership has prompted Western journalists to label the country “Europe’s last dictatorship.”

By: World Israel News Staff


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