(JNS.org) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been asked to take further steps to secure Jerusalem’s ancient Mount of Olives (“Har Hazeitim” in Hebrew) cemetery, whose grounds and visitors have been the target of Arab vandalism and attacks by Arabs.
The Mount of Olives, which has been in use for 3,000 years, is home to 150,000 graves and several sites of significance to Christians, including Mary’s Tomb, the Church of Maria Magdelene, and the Garden of Gethsemane. The Jerusalem Development Authority has already installed security cameras and established a permanent police presence at the cemetery.
Leaders of Jewish groups including the Rabbinical Council of America, the National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Union, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations this week wrote a letter to Netanyahu commending the prime minister “for the great strides made by his government to secure and protect the ancient Jewish cemetery—which has increasingly come under attack in recent years with continuous violence against visitors, rampant grave desecrations, dumping of refuse and gross defilement of the cemetery by local Arab youths,” the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeitim (ICPHH) said in a press release.
The ICPHH, however, is asking for such additional measures as the deployment of more police and Netanyahu’s support of Israeli Knesset legislation “which includes significant punishment for minors committing cemetery-related offences, as well as mandating stiff punishment to address attacks carried out in cemetery perimeter areas, which are directed at visitors to intimidate and/or cause direct bodily harm,” according to the press release.
“Even after our imperatives are met and all are free to visit their departed in peace in an appropriate environment befitting this immensely important Jewish cemetery, we will continue to watch over the hallowed ground to assure that violence and vandalism never again plague this place,” ICPHH Chairman Abraham Lubinsky said in a statement.