4 arrested for desecration of 20 tombs on Mt. of Olives

Three Arab boys from A-Tur in e. J'lem allegedly damaged tombstones in the cemetery's American section.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
July 8, 2011 05:46
2 minute read.
Rabbi Mordechai Shlomo Friedman's grave

boyan hasidim mount of olives 311. (photo credit: Natalie Arviv)

 
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Three Arab boys from A-Tur in east Jerusalem neighborhood were arrested on Thursday for allegedly destroying at least 20 tombstones on the Mount of Olives over the past few months.

The damage was done in the cemetery’s American section.

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A fourth youth is to be arrested on Friday.

One of the four was arrested for a similar offense last year, police said. The suspects, all 15 or 16 years of age, were to be brought to court to extend their detentions on Thursday or Friday.

The Mount of Olives (Har Hazeitim) cemetery has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves.

Over the past decade, Jewish groups have brought highprofile tours to the cemetery to highlight its neglect. In the past year, three organizations have started “watch groups” for the area, to advocate for increased police patrols, better lighting, and improved security.

The Almagor Terror Victims Association, One Jerusalem, and the International Committee for the Preservation of Har HaZeitim, which is associated with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and is made up of Diaspora Jews who have relatives buried in the cemetery, are all working independently to improve security.

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There have also been several instances of Arab youth from a nearby school throwing stones at funeral processions or at mourners entering or leaving the cemetery. Meir Indor, the head of Almagor, was lightly wounded in the head when a rock hit his car as he was leaving the cemetery last fall.

“We would like to put an end to this and make sure people who go to visit Har HaZeitim can go in peace and security,” said Jeff Daube, a member of the Israel Steering Committee of the International Committee and the director of the Israel Office of the Zionist Organization of America, who said he was “heartened” to hear of the arrests. His group is calling for cameras, fences and additional security personnel, and for a single government body to take responsibility for the site.

Daube said that some cameras had been installed in the past few months, but that it was not sufficient. Additionally, he called on the police to stop the extension of a mosque that that has been illegally built on cemetery grounds.

Unrelated to Thursday’s events, the International Committee for the Preservation of Har HaZeitim said on Wednesday that it was appealing to the US Congress and the State Department to issue statements in Arabic condemning the destruction of the graves, and for the department to include the site in its annual report on freedom of religion.

International Committee founder and New York businessman Abe Lubinsky, whose parents are buried on the Mount of Olives, said he and his group were frustrated with “the ineffective lip service, pronouncements about the unity of Jerusalem, and the total inertia of Israel’s security establishment while Palestinians continue to openly defile one of Judaism’s holiest sites.”

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