The Knesset building.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The largest-ever caucus in the Knesset – the Knesset Lobby for the Protection of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem – was launched this week with members from every party in the House except for the Joint List.
The new caucus has 65 members, and the organization behind it, the International Main Committee for the Protection of the Mount of Olives, plans to gather more lawmakers’ signatures.
The Mount of Olives is the world’s oldest cemetery, at 3,000 years old, and contains the graves of 150,000 Jews, including leaders and rabbis from throughout Jewish history. The site has been plagued by vandalism and rock-throwing by east Jerusalem Arabs.
The International Main Committee for the Protection of the Mount of Olives, led by Avraham and Menachem Lubinsky, businessmen and philanthropists from New York, seeks to combat the vandalism and poor security at the site.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, attended the launch with a delegation of 50 members of the International Main Committee, and praised US President Donald Trump’s plan to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “the right thing” to do.
Hoenlein said out that when Trump visited the Western Wall in May and stated that Jerusalem is holy to the Jewish people, “there was not even one flare-up, not one demonstration, because when you do the right thing, you shouldn’t ask questions, just do it.”
As for the Mount of Olives, Hoenlein said that “the fact that MKs don’t visit the graves of their parents or grandparents is a stain on the Jewish people. I don’t have relatives there, but for me, the idea that going there is not possible because of [poor] security is unacceptable.”
Caucus chairman MK Yoav Ben-Tzur of Shas said that in recent years there has been less vandalism of graves on the Mount of Olives, but there is still work to be done.
“We will protect the dignity of the deceased who are buried there and the security of the visitors,” Ben-Tsur said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said the delegation shows that the Mount of Olives is important to Jewish people the world over.
“Our holy sites are a source of our strength and pride, and no one can cancel our connection to Jerusalem, our eternal capital, not through lies or threats,” Herzog said.
The International Main Committee for the Protection of the Mount of Olives delegation met with President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and both chief rabbis, and toured the Mount of Olives, where they were briefed by Jerusalem Police head Asst.-Ch. Yoram Halevy.
When the delegation met with Rivlin, whose parents, sister and other relatives are buried on the Mount of Olives, he said the site “symbolizes the Zionist revival.”
“You took upon yourselves such an important and holy mission of strengthening the Mount of Olives, a symbol of our holding Jerusalem, our city,” Rivlin said.