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High School Students Renovate Tombs on Mount of Olives

A group of 12th graders are fixing tombs on the Mount of Olives. In the process, they are discovering their own roots.
By Yoni Kempinsky and Malkah Fleisher
First Publish: 5/25/2010, 3:21 PM / Last Update: 5/25/2010, 10:23 PM

A group of 12th graders are fixing tombs on the Mount of Olives. In the process, they are discovering their own roots.

As part of an annual volunteer project of the 12th grade students of the Maale Adumim yeshiva high school, in conjunction with the organization "By His Light We Will Go", seniors come to the Mount of Olives cemetery to repair, clean and uncover tombstones. According to the rabbi in charge of the project, not only is this important work being done, but it is providing strong connections between the students and their Jewish identity.

After the Six Day War, Israeli governments took up the tremendous task of rehabilitating the Mount of Olives cemetery. The objective was to deal with the systematic damage done by the Jordanians during their 19 year occupation of Jerusalem, as well as the ravages of nature and time. Despite the effort and resources expended, there were still forgotten gravestones and neglected tombs.

To contribute to the national effort, Maale Adumim seniors now renovate and clean the tombstones. Their work includes repainting letters, repairing and cleaning stones, and working with excavation tools to uncover tombstones buried underground. The project has been underway for six years, and is carried out in partnership with the City of David (Ir David).
 
"Mount of Olives volunteering is unique because we are not helping living people, but the dead," said Rabbi Aaron, who is in charge of the high school project.  "Every time we arrive at the site, I try to tell the students about the very people who are buried there, about rabbis and famous personalities as well as people who are not well known.  The students connect a lot to this type of volunteer work, and they really invest themselves in it."

"Through this special path of volunteering, it is possible to connect the students to the Jewish heritage and history," he said.

"By His Light We Will Go", which is a suborganization of Amit, the Religious Zionist Educational Network in Israel, included thousands of seniors last year in volunteer projects pertaining to education, health, welfare, and other areas.