Israel on Thursday announced the discovery of a 2,000-year-old pagan altar at the site where plans for a new hospital wing have come under fire from ultra-Orthodox Jews who fear bones found there may be of Jews
The find of what the Israel Antiquities Authority calls a “magnificent” altar gives a boost to the authorities at a time when ultra-orthodox Jews condemned the removal of bones from ancient graves at the site in the southern city of Ashkelon.
“The find further corroborates the assertion that this place is a pagan cemetery,” the IAA said in a statement.
The altar is about 60 centimetres (24 inches) tall and is decorated with a bull’s head from which dangle laurel wreaths. Such altars usually stood in Roman temples, the statement said.
It was discovered as the IAA was overseeing development of a hospital wing designed to withstand rockets fired from the nearby Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants.