Sunday night marks the yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of medieval scholar Rabbi Ovadiah MiBartenura, and the Jerusalem Cemetery Foundation called on Jews to pay their respects to the rabbi by visiting his grave. Rabbi Ovadiah MiBartenura is buried on the Mount of Olives cemetery, just a few minutes' walk from the Western Wall, Foundation officials said.
Rabbi Ovadiah MiBartenura, born in Italy in 1445, is best known for his commentary on the Mishna, the main body of sacred literature in the Oral Torah. In 1488, he immigrated to Jerusalem, helping to expand the Jewish community there, which saw a significant revival and growth in population in the 1490s, after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. He led the community for over two decades, acting as chief judge and raising funds for new institions of learning, charitable organizations, etc.
He is also the author of one of the most important travelogues of the Land of Israel in the medieval period, detailing encounters with local Arabs, Bedouin tribes, and especially the activities of the Karaites and Samaritans in Israel and Egypt.
Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, who heads the Foundation, said that “we have the great privilege of being able to visit the tomb of Rabbi Ovadiah MiBartenura, the great commentator on the Mishna, on the occasion of his yahrzeit just days before the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish people.
The Rabbi is buried next to the Shiloach spring, at the base of the Mt. of Olives. Rabbi Horowitz said police would be out in force to ensure the safe passage of Jews from the Western Wall to the tomb, a four minute walk away. The walk will take visitors around the eastern side of the Old City, through various Arab neighborhoods. “The police are prepared to handle a large crowd, those coming to the Tomb can be confident that they will be well protected,” he said.
After a recent visit to the Tomb, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Chaim Miller wrote to police that while it was clear that they were trying to increase security on the Mount of Olives – having set up a police station in the neighborhood of the cemetery – it wasn't enough. “It is very important to put a police station in the area of the cemetery itself, where the attacks take place,” he wrote.
The situation was especially dire at the site of Rabbi Ovadiah MiBartenura's tomb, because it was located at the edge of the cemetery, opposite an Arab school, and youths from the school were constantly throwing stones at visitors to the site. “Perhaps it would be possible to move the school to another building in the neighborhood,” Miller wrote to police, “or to enact further security measures to prevent attacks."