Police to open new station on Mount of Olives

Public security minister says station will increase security against vandalism, stone throwing.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
January 31, 2012 12:30
2 minute read.
A man prays at the Mount of Olives cemetery.

Mount of Olives Jerusalem skyline panorama 390 R. (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)

Jerusalem police will open a new police station atop the Mount of Olives (Har Hazeitim) in two weeks, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch announced Tuesday.

On a tour of east Jerusalem, Aharonovitch said 25 police officers will be stationed there to guard against grave desecration in the Mount of Olives cemetery and to prevent stone throwing incidents.

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“It will greatly increase the feeling of security,” he said. Aharonovitch added that plans for the station have been in the works for over a year, in coordination with international Jewish groups who have demanded a greater police presence at the cemetery.

Last year, the Prime Minister’s Office began funding security cameras in the cemetery, a security measure which led to arrests in recent months. Currently, the cemetery is guarded by 80 security cameras and a private security guard firm. A total of 137 cameras will be installed in the cemetery by the end of 2012.

In December, the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeitim released video footage from the cameras, showing a man throwing bricks and trying to break a headstone on November 29. As he left the site he was apprehended by two private security guards and later arrested by police.

The Mount of Olives cemetery has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves, including the graves of former prime minister Menachem Begin and Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby stressed that the area’s importance to Jewish heritage and tourism was the reason they will relocate the 25 police officers to the area, located just under the main viewpoint near the Seven Arches Hotel. There are five other police stations in east Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, Aharonovitch toured a number of hot spots in east Jerusalem, meeting with residents of Beit Yehonatan in Silwan, and hiking through underground tunnels from the Givati Parking Lot excavation opposite the City of David archeological park.

Outside the Old City, Aharonovitch addressed the issue of the temporary Mugrabi Bridge located in the Western Wall Plaza, which municipality engineers claim is unsafe and in danger of collapse. Aharonovitch said that any changes or renovations to the bridge, which is the only entrance for non- Muslims to the Temple Mount plaza, will only be undertaken with full cooperation of the Wakf Muslim religious trust and Jordanian authorities.


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