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      'Mortal Danger' to Travel to Mount of Olives

      Knesset committee hearing Monday discusses security issues at historic site; no police until Defense Min. confirms danger.
      By Tova Dvorin
      First Publish: 11/11/2013, 9:24 PM

      Mount of Olives cemetery (file)
      Mount of Olives cemetery (file)
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      A Knesset committee hearing regarding internal security issues at the Mount of Olives revealed that the roads to the historic site present a mortal danger to travelers and pilgrims. The Mount of Olives holds one of Judaism's oldest cemeteries, and is the burial site of several prominent religious leaders. 

      The discussion, which was mediated by Likud MK Miri Regev, opened with a statement from MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) that he is "afraid to go to the Mount of Olives" and that "when you go there, you find yourself in mortal danger." 

      Numerous rock-throwing attacks were launched against Jews visiting the Mount of Olives this September, who were praying at the historic site just before the Rosh Hashanah holiday. One New York family was attacked by rioting Arabs and eventually required hospitalization. 

      Michaeli also addressed the urgency of passing a law which would establish Jewish authority over the Mount, which was introduced in the previous Knesset but has not been pushed forward since. The law had originally been pushed by former MK Professor Aryeh Elded. 

      Michaeli also advocated stricter penalties for rock-throwing and the introduction of a regular patrol in the area to prevent more attacks against Jewish visitors. Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) MK Orit Struk supported the initiatives, reiterating that "these are not insurgents - they're terrorists." Struk was heading home on a public bus last week which was firebombed by Arab terrorists.

      The Knesset hearing provided a grim picture of the current situation on the Mount of Olives. Graves are desecrated on a regular basis; visitors often face rock-throwing attacks, stone roadblocks, and other hazards when traveling to the site. The discussion also revealed that while a police station stands on the site and is technically open 24 hours a day, the reality is that there are only 2 cars patrolling the site until 9:00 pm, and 1 car during the night. Regev stated that while the station may be open, it is in a state of default; it is not actively patrolling like it should be to prevent more attacks. 

      Avraham Lubinsky, director of the Mount of Olives Protection Committee, maintained that the police are underestimating the need for security on the Mount and on the roads leading up to the Mount. MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) added that an Arab high school stands along the road up to the Mount, and that students there frequently initiate rock-throwing attacks, knowing that they won't be caught. 

      Hillel Horowitz, director of the Cemetery Council of Jerusalem, insists that additional police stands should be established on consistently problematic areas of the Mount, that cameras be placed along the walls for 24/7 security monitoring, and that a budget be set to restore the desecrated graves. "We are not just talking about rioting," Horowitz said. "We are talking about attempted murder." 

      Regev ended the session by noting the Committee's dissatisfaction with the performance of Israeli police on the Mount. She emphasized the inherent lack of security for visitors and that "no municipal investigation will begin until the Ministry for Defense in the Interior can confirm what exactly is going on at the Mount." Another hearing will convene in about two months.