A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in the Har Homa quarter in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
• WHILE AMERICAN citizens, including those living in Israel, are weighing the pros and cons of the two leading presidential candidates, Dr. Harold Rhode, an American specialist on the Middle East and former adviser on Islamic Affairs in the office of the Secretary of Defense, is looking beyond November 8. During his visit to Israel, he will talk about the post-election options of America and the Arab world. In Jerusalem, he will be speaking on Monday, September 12 at 10 a.m. at the Jerusalem Club in Yemin Moshe.
Rhode worked as an analyst at the Pentagon for 28 years. He taught Islamic history at the University of Delaware as an adjunct professor from 1979 to 1981. In 1982, he joined the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon as an adviser on the Islamic world, with a special emphasis on Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
Between 1991 and 1994, Rhode served on the US Department of Defense’s Policy Planning Staff. While in that position, he wrote strategy papers on Middle Eastern and Central Asian topics.
From 1994 to 2010, Rhode worked as an adviser on Islamic Affairs in the Office of Net Assessment, an in-house think tank for the Pentagon. He is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the New York-based Gatestone Institute, an international policy council and advocacy group that promotes institutions of democracy and the rule of law, human rights, a free and strong economy, a military capable of ensuring peace at home and in the free world, and energy independence.
During a visit to Israel a year ago, Rhode delivered an address at Ariel University, where he said that the Middle East was in trouble – and that much of that trouble was due to the administration in Washington. That trouble extended to almost all aspects of the US relationship with the Middle East – and with Israel.
• THE SCARCITY of land for construction of housing in Jerusalem is well known, which is one of the reasons that so many high-rise towers have been built or are in the process of completion. But if land for the living is scarce, how much more so is land for the dead. A visit to Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Givat Shaul provides plenty of evidence of a new trend, which is to bury bodies in a wall, like a series of safe deposit boxes in a bank, instead of burying them in the ground.
There are still traditional burial places on reserve, but soon the burial societies will run out of room and will have no option other than walls and hillsides as final resting places for the deceased of Jerusalem. The situation is such that staircases have been narrowed to make room for more graves, and cramped spaces at the end of a row of graves are somehow being made wide enough to accommodate a corpse and a gravestone.
But sometimes this involves desecrating the grave of someone long dead. That is what happened in the case of Liza Cohen, whose son Gabi Cohen visits her grave every week. He was astounded at the end of last week to discover that the tombstone was in ruins and that much of the earth that covered his mother’s remains had been dug up. It was a traumatic experience for him.
It transpired that the burial society responsible for that section of the cemetery had ordered two additional graves to be dug alongside that of Cohen’s mother, when there was barely any room for them. Liza’s Cohen’s grave proved to be an obstacle for the contractor in getting the job done, and the easiest solution from his point of view was to simply take the obstacle out of the way.
Cohen contacted the burial society to ask how they could allow such a thing.
“It’s not us,” he was told. “It’s the contractor.”
But when he approached the contractor, the reply was “It’s not us. It’s the burial society.”
Each was passing the buck without taking responsibility, Cohen told Channel 1 as he stood beside the ruins of his mother’s grave.
Liza Cohen was not the only victim of the callousness of burial societies. Anyone who may doubt this is invited to take a walk around Har Hamenuhot.