One day after a yeshiva student was hospitalized following a rock-throwing
attack while driving near the Mount of Olives – illustrating the ongoing pattern
of violence endemic to the area – the Knesset Interior Committee met on Monday
to discuss improving security there.
In east Jerusalem, the Mount of
Olives is home to Judaism’s oldest cemetery, where four prophets, former prime
minister Menachem Begin, Hebrew revivalist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and leaders of
revered rabbinical dynasties are buried. It is accessible only by driving
through Palestinian neighborhoods.
According to police, at least 24
attacks on Israelis and others took place near the site in October.
afraid today to go to the Mount of Olives,” said MK Miri Regev (Likud), who
chairs the committee and led the meeting.
“When you travel there you find
yourself in mortal danger.”
MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas), who initiated the
meeting, said he had repeatedly sought to spur greater police measures to secure
“A change needs to be made to the law to protect people there,”
After listening to numerous complaints from both victims and
activists, Regev demanded accountability from police and all government agencies
responsible for security in the area.
“I want a report in one week
detailing the number of crimes, arrests, convictions and who is responsible for
security on the Mount of Olives from the police, Jerusalem Municipality and
Justice Ministry,” she said.
She added that in two months she would hold
another hearing to check on what has been done to afford greater protection to
The majority of the attacks have taken place on the main roads
leading to the site, being undertaken by Palestinian students from a nearby high
school and middle school.
Although police built a substation in the area
a year-anda- half ago and agreed to have two dozen officers patrol roads around
the clock, participants at the Knesset committee meeting said the police
presence had fallen far short of what was promised.
“We were told police
would be patrolling the area 24-hours a day in three shifts, with eight officers
in each shift, but that has never happened,” said Harvey Schwartz, chairman of
the Israel steering committee for the International Committee for the
Preservation of Har Hazeitim (ICPHH).
Har Hazeitim is Hebrew for the
Mount of Olives.
“We generally don’t see more than one or two officers at
any given time,” he said.
Regev asked a police representative whether the
substation was open around the clock. When the representative equivocated, she
said police appeared to be neglecting their responsibilities.
“There is a
sense that the police force is in a state of default and has not executed its
role properly,” she said.
Asked how police had acted to stymie the
violence, national spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said after the meeting that the
police and Border Guard presence on the Mount of Olives had been increased, and
that the authorities were working in coordination with a private security
“Mainly we’ve seen that Palestinian students from nearby schools
are involved in the incidents, so we have added more closed-circuit TV cameras
and stationed undercover officers near the schools to make arrests,” he
Hillel Horowitz, CEO of the Cemetery Council of Jerusalem, strongly
condemned the police response and demanded that more officers be assigned
immediately along with additional security cameras.
“This is not rioting;
this is attempted murder!” Horowitz stated.
While ICPHH chairman Abe
Lubinsky praised Regev following the meeting, he noted that during a similar
hearing in May she had also called on police to submit a report, which was never
Still, he said he was pleased with the MK’s resolve to ensure
that steps are taken to curtail the violence.
“I think it’s very good
that she puts the onus on them to come up with the reports and a plan of
action,” said Lubinsky, referring to the police. “It looks like she is highly
motivated, which is good.”
Meanwhile, ICPHH Israel steering committee
head Schwartz said he was perplexed as to why the police and government had
taken steps in east Jerusalem to address so-called price tag attacks, which are
hate crimes by Jews against Arab property, while not allocating the same
resources for visitors to the Mount of Olives.
“The government seems to
have a far greater interest in protecting Muslim and Christian property than
Jewish people who are being regularly attacked by terrorists,” he
“Why are all the police assigned to the Old City while few are
stationed on Har Hazeitim?”