Members of a major emergency response organization were accused Monday of damaging skeletons thought to be of Jordanian soldiers killed during the 1967 Six Day War, which were exposed on a construction site in East Jerusalem earlier this month.
The damage was revealed in a letter written by Chen Kugel, head of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, to the Health Ministry and the head of the police investigations unit.
The letter suggested that the Foreign Ministry become involved to prevent a diplomatic incident with Jordan, Channel 2 News reported.
The voluntary ZAKA organization had been called in to remove the remains — found along with a helmet and boots — from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher.
The bones were sent on to the Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv.
“The graves were not dug up professionally, not to mention negligence and roughness and the tools for digging (hoes) damaged the skeletons,” causing breakages in bones that had already been damaged in battle, Kugel wrote.
Identification would be that much harder because important bones were missing, Kugel charged.
“If professional people had led the dig, the pieces of bone could have been put back together quickly,” Kugel wrote, but now, the exercise would take considerable time, with no promise of success.
ZAKA spokesman Motti Bukchin responded that by the time ZAKA volunteers got to the site, the skeletons had already been placed in bags.
“The volunteers continued to work for several hours at the scene in order to recover any remaining bones,” he said.
“ZAKA volunteers carry out their sacred work with dedication and professionalism in order to ensure the dignity of the dead, regardless of religion, race or gender,” he said, rejecting charges that ZAKA volunteers acted unprofessionally.
In the letter, Kugel warned that the “incendiary” incident could spark a diplomatic crisis.
“I’m sure that respect for the dead is important to the Jordanians,” the letter read, “and so it’s hard for me to see how we can explain breaks in bones caused by digging tools, mixing of bones belonging to different bodies and missing bones.”
Teams of ZAKA paramedics — all of them voluntary and primarily made up of Orthodox Jews — are officially recognized by the government. They work in situations of unnatural death such as car accidents, murders and terrorist attacks, collecting bodies, body parts and human tissue for burial according to Jewish law.
Bukchin said the organization had not been contacted by anyone at Abu Kabir about the situation.