Visitors to the Mount of Olives need no longer fear being attacked by the local Arab population, nor will gravesites of loved ones and righteous individuals be desecrated by vandals, Rabbi of the Holy Places Shmuel Rabinovitz promised on Wednesday.
"We have finally found a solution to the ongoing problem of vandalism and violence," said Rabinovitz. "Starting soon people will be able to feel secure and safe on the Mount of Olives and will know that the memory of the sacred souls that rest there will not be desecrated."
On Sunday the cabinet will be asked to vote to transfer responsibility for security on the Mount of Olives to the Construction and Housing Ministry. In addition to the security cameras and regular police patrols, the ministry will provide a budget for a private security company that will maintain a constant presence on the mount.
At the beginning of December the headstone of the Rebbe of Lalov, who passed away on Yom Kippur eve, was smashed by vandals using hammers. This was the latest, but not the only, severe case in which gravesites have been desecrated. Police suspect local Arab residents were responsible.
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias, who agreed that his ministry would take over responsibility for security on the mount, told the haredi news service Hakol Haharedi [the haredi voice] that his ministry already had a budget of NIS 46 million for providing security in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City and in certain parts of east Jerusalem.
"We provide the funding for patrols in bullet-proof vehicles and security cameras but up until now no one has taken full responsibility for what happens on the Mount of Olives," said Atias.
"Originally, the Justice Ministry opposed allowing the Construction and Housing Ministry to provide the budget for a private security company. They claimed that the Mount of Olives was a tourist site and that the construction and housing ministry was responsible only for places where people lived."
Prime Minister's Office Director-General Eyal Gabbai was also involved with facilitating the transfer of authority over the mount to Atias's ministry.
"The situation has become impossible," said Atias. "There are broken headstones and families are afraid to go to the Mount of Olives. When graves are desecrated in the Diaspora it immediately becomes an international affair with the foreign ministry getting involved. But when it happens here in Israel nobody says anything."