Knesset to discuss Mt. of Olives cemetery security

The 3,000-year-old cemetery suffers from rampant desecration of graves and violence against visitors.

February 26, 2012 23:32
2 minute read.
PIECES OF shattered Jewish grave stones

PIECES OF shattered Jewish grave stone at Mt. of Olives 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The deteriorating security situation at the Mount of Olives cemetery is set to be discussed on Monday at an emergency hearing with the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, after Diaspora Jewish leaders made saving the cemetery one of their central concerns.

The 3,000-year-old cemetery, which is one of the oldest Jewish burial sites, suffers from rampant desecration of graves and violence against visitors, including stones thrown at mourners and family members as they enter or leave the site.

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“The Mount of Olives is a microcosm of the Jewish people’s history for the past 3,000 years,” said Danny Danon (Likud), the chairman of the Knesset committee in a statement released by his office.

“It has served as the burial place for Jews since the time of the Second Temple. We will not allow our citizens to be attacked in the historical sites and on the roads of our capital. We must hold law-enforcement officials responsible and ensure they put an end to these acts.”

On Friday, Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, visited the Mount of Olives cemetery with US Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-New York) and Jerrold Nadler (DNew York). A large rock was thrown at the group while they examined some of the recent vandalism, though no one was injured.

Additionally, more than 600 people gathered at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue on Saturday night to hear Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu), MKs Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) speak about the importance of improving the security situation on the Mount of Olives..

“If we do not keep Jerusalem strong, then our entire position is compromised,” Ayalon told the crowd.

“We must build on our past and the Mount of Olives is an integral part of it. I have grandparents buried there and I think every Israeli has a connection to the sacred site.”

Last month, Jerusalem police announced that a permanent police station with 25 police officers would be opened in a matter of weeks on the Mount of Olives to combat stone-throwing and desecration of graves. The station was supposed to be opened two weeks ago but has been delayed a number of times.

Meir Indor, who heads the Almagor Terror Victim’s Association and who was injured in a stone-throwing attack in the fall of 2010, appealed to the Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) and the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee to create a volunteer civilian police force to assist the police.

In a letter to Aharonovitch, Indor stressed that cameras are not sufficient to stopping vandalism, especially because there are large blind spots, and that only with active patrols can the security situation be improved in and around the cemetery.

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