MKs Examine Desecrated Ancient Mt. of Olives Cemetery

Many complaints have been registered with the authorities over extensive desecration of graves at the ancient Jerusalem cemetery.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

Legislators serving on the Knesset's State Control Committee were given a tour Tuesday of the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mt. of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem's Old City. The purpose of the tour was to examine first-hand the many complaints registered with the authorities over extensive desecration of graves at the site, including graffiti and smashed headstones.
MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party-National Union), chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee, expressed bitterness over the destruction he saw at the ancient cemetery: "If such vandalism as the smashing of headstones and the desecration of graves had occurred in a Jewish cemetery in Europe, I am convinced that the entire Jewish world would be shocked and the law enforcement authorities would attempt to capture the guilty parties."

MK Orlev noted that, in contrast to the case of a European Jewish cemetery desecration, such "shocking phenomena" are taking place "in the heart of the capital of Israel, adjacent to the Western Wall, [yet] the sovereign Jewish regime remains apathetic."

Representatives of the Development Authority responsible for eastern Jerusalem, who accompanied the parliamentarians on their fact-finding tour of the Mt. of Olives, promised to implement government decisions to preserve and restore the desecrated Jewish cemetery. Among other measures, the development authority is to establish effective security arrangements for the area, repair the damaged headstones, and assure general cleanliness, waste collection and disposal.
MK Orlev announced that the committee he heads will request State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to examine the conduct of the relevant state authorities responsible for the Mt. of Olives site. In three months, Orlev said, the State Control Committee would hold a follow-up meeting on the issue.

The cemetery on the Mt. of Olives includes approximately 150,000 graves, dating from the First Temple period through modern times. Among the many graves there are those of many famous Jewish historical figures such as Rabbi Moshe Ben-Nachman (Ramban), former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel Shlomo Goren, the codifier of modern Hebrew Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, author and Nobel Prize laureate S. Y. Agnon, British Chief Rabbi and Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, and media mogul Robert Maxwell. Many Jews through the ages have sought burial on the Mt. of Olives because the site is mentioned in the Bible as the first spot from which the dead will be revivified.