MKs want security beefed up for Jewish visitors to Jerusalem's mount of olives cemetery

Lawmakers, activists complain that visitors constantly being attacked; Likud MK Amsalem calls for area to be declared national heritage site

A view of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A view of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.
The police must increase its presence around the Mount of Olives Cemetery in east Jerusalem, where Jewish visitors are often attacked, MKs and activists said at a Knesset Interior Committee meeting Monday.
Police Kedem District commander Chief Superintendent Chaim Shmueli recommended that a fence be built around the cemetery with gates leading to the graves.
Shmueli said 26 officers are assigned to the police station on the Mount of Olives, which is active 24 hours a day.
The meeting’s attendees pointed to continued problems of vandalism and rock-throwing, saying that the police is not doing enough.
“Either give [private] security guards more authority or increase the protection,” on the mount, MK Yoav Ben-Tsur said. “It cannot be that in the State of Israel our sovereignty is abandoned.”
Ben-Tsur recounted a recent visit to the Mount of Olives with Housing Minister Yoav Galant, during which the latter promised to work on having a fence built.
MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said the violence on the Mount of Olives is an attack on Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and the entire Land of Israel.
“The Mount of Olives is a way to fight for the Temple Mount and if the authorities, the Shin Bet, and the police would understand that, we would be in a better situation,” he added.
According to MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), the problem isn’t that the police don’t understand, it is that they are not motivated. He called the lack of security in east Jerusalem “bankruptcy” by law enforcement authorities.
MK Abdullah Abu Marouf (Joint List) spoke out against vandalizing graves, calling it “not accepted by anyone in the world; a basic concept in human values.”
The Joint List MK also said the Waqf should have been invited to the meeting.
MK Uri Maklev (UTJ) said the phrase “final resting place” does not apply to people buried on the Mount of Olives, because of the situation there.
“When did the police last take a broad, nighttime initiative to arrest rioters and put them on trial?” MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu) asked.
Shmueli responded that people are arrested on a regular basis, not en masse, but in cases where there can be indictments.
“The problem is one of presence and showing who’s in charge and how determined we are to show our sovereignty in Jerusalem,” Gal posited.
“We have to make our presence known until it’s understood that the people in charge of the site are the Jews.”
Shmueli responded that “no one is arguing that we are not the sovereign on the site. The main problem is getting evidence against minors. Most of them get out [of prison] after several months, and we meet them again and again. This is where legislators can help.”
Isi Lehrer, a representative of the Housing Ministry, which is responsible for securing the area, said security cameras are constantly vandalized, and they do not have a sufficient budget to constantly replaced them, and a request that the Prime Minister’s Office grant more funding was rejected.
Abe Lubinsky, co-chairman of the International Committee for the Preservation of the Mount of Olives said the police have abandoned the site.
“Where is the protection of the mount that was promised in coalition agreements?” he asked. “This is my fourth time in the committee in recent years. Why do we have to keep discussing the same problems?”
Interior Committee chairman Dudi Amsalem (Likud) closed the meeting by calling for the Mount of Olives to be declared a national heritage site, and said he plans to have the panel visit the site next month.
“A nation that does not respect its heritage should not be surprised when other people disrespect it,” Amsalem stated.