JERUSALEM, October 5, 2020 - In a letter addressed to the President of Lithuania, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, urged the the President to terminate their government's plan to develop a conference center on the Shnipishok cemetery, the original resting place of the Vilna Gaon.
Rabbi Lau reminds the President of the very strong link between Lithuania and the Jewish nation. "The link between the Jews of Lithuania and its land is inextricable. For centuries, many Jews have lived throughout this country and it has been a source of inspiration for
wonderful works pertaining to the Torah. The world of yeshivas, which is the breeding
ground for the wisdom of the Jewish Torah, was able to establish central ‘batei midrash’
(Jewish study halls] on Lithuanian soil."
The Chief Rabbi believed that their relationship could be productive for both countries by saying, "I think that this heritage should be preserved, and that it is a source of pride for both the Lithuanian people and the Jewish people."
Rabbi Lau, highlighted the atrocity that would be perpetrated, if the government developed the Sports Palace, the "large gymnasium."
"I have recently been informed that there was an intention to destroy the large gymnasium
that was built on the cemetery and to turn the area into a conference center. This activity
will severely damage the remains of the bodies that are found in this holy land. According
to Jewish law, this is forbidden in any way. I do not think that there is any Jewish Torah
element that has the authority to decide that such a thing is permissible."
The Chief Rabbi appealed to the President to refrain from making an attempts to modify the conference center. "As the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel and as the President of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, | maintain constant and continuous contact with most of the rabbis in the world, and especially with the leaders among them, and in the opinion of all, it is forbidden to modify the current situation."
Rabbi Lau concluded with a final heartfelt request. "I appeal to you to do as much as possible to prevent any harm to the martyrs of Israel and to those buried there and not to desecrate this holy cemetery."
The letter was ignored by the Lithuanian government. Steps are being taken by Turto Bankas to develop the Sports Palace, contrary to the direct requests of the Chief Rabbi.