Prominent Jewish leaders around the world have joined forces to create an
international- watch committee to clean up the Mount of Olives cemetery. The
leaders say the cemetery has fallen into “utter chaos” since Israel regained
control of the area in 1967. The committee is planning a kick-off event to raise
public awareness on Saturday night at the Great Synagogue in
“There isn’t a Jewish cemetery in the world that’s as
neglected,” lamented Menachem Lubinsky, a New York businessman whose parents are
buried in the cemetery.
He told The Jerusalem Post
that his brother
Avraham hatched the idea for an international committee after visiting their
parent’s grave this past spring, when he noticed eight nearby graves destroyed
with a “the kind of maliciousness that defies imagination.”
In May, the
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss released a report that slammed successive
governments for not providing basic maintenance and security in the cemetery.
Last week, the Knesset State Control Committee, headed by MK Yoel Hasson
(Kadima), said the government had agreed to refurbish 20,000 graves by the end
of 2013 – about 7,000 per year. Some 200 security cameras will also be installed
in, and around, the cemetery.
Rock throwing incidents in the area have
become increasing frequent, with children from a nearby school throwing rocks at
cars of the mourners. On September 29, Almagor Victims of Terror Association
Meir Indor said he faced a “lynch” situation after leaving the cemetery, when
his car was stoned while stuck in a traffic jam.
He was lightly injured
in the incident.
Lubinsky said his personal experiences, and the State
Comptroller’s report, inspired him to reach out to Jews across the world to form
a committee to ensure the changes are implemented.
Among the committee
members are Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, Steve Savitsky, the president of the Orthodox
Union, and Steve Mostofsky, the president of the National Council of Young
“There seems to be a consensus across the board that this is
something that needs to be done, it’s long been neglected,” said Lubinsky. “It’s
a statement to Jews all over the world.
The place where priests prepared
the ashes for sacrifice, and where the new month was announced, should be as
well-maintained as the kotel [Western Wall].”
Part of the reason for the
cemetery’s decline has been confusion over which government agency or
organization is responsible for upkeep. The Jewish Development Authority, a
semipublic development company associated with the Jerusalem municipality, will
be responsible for part of the upcoming renovations.
In addition to
Saturday’s kickoff event, the committee plans a ‘grave clean-up day’ by the
community to reverse the desecration that has gone unchecked for the past 40
years. But Lubinsky said that maintaining security in the locale, so mourners
can visit the graves in peace, is the most important goal.
must return to this area, since it seems like they haven’t been there since
1967,” said Lubinsky.
“They need to return to Har Hazeitim to give
impression to Jews and the world that Har Hazeitim is a secure place. The Mount
of Olives Cemetery should be given the kind of recognition it deserves, so that
people know the holiest and oldest cemetery in Judaism is finally being taking