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