Thousands took part in a night of study and singing on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives Thursday night, on a site adjacent to the grave of Rabbi Avraham Hakohen Kook zt''l, the first Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel and the founder of religious Zionism.
Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, dean of the Ramat Gan Yeshiva, and singer Yitzhak Meir led the heartfelt night of prayer dedicated to the visionary rabbi, before thousands visited the grave on Friday, also in commemoration of the 79th anniversary of Rabbi Kook's passing.
Arutz Sheva got the chance to speak with Rabbi Hilel Horowitz of Hevron, who serves as Director of Jewish Cemeteries in Jerusalem, during the mass visit to the rabbi's grave on Friday morning.
"We're working on a project called 'ascending the Mount of Olives.' We create public events here around the greats and holy ones who are buried here on the Mount of Olives," said Rabbi Horowitz, noting the activities he leads at what is said to be the oldest cemetery still in use in the world.
The rabbi recounted that "this year a hilula (memorial celebration) was held for the holy Rashash (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, a famous Yemenite rabbi of the 18th century CE), for Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook (Rabbi Avraham Kook's son), to the fallen soldiers of Israel's wars buried at the Mount, and for the holy Ohr Hachaim (a celebrated medieval commentator on the Torah)."
Speaking about the events Thursday night, Rabbi Horowitz said "we held a great night of study here, a night watch of two thousand people who were here all night in a unique spiritual elevation."
Elaborating on the night's activities, the rabbi remarked "there were Torah lessons, soulful songs of devotion, and a very great coming together around the figure and great light of the rabbi (Rabbi Kook) zt''l, around his Torah, his contemplation and doctrine while coming together with this great Mount here."
Undeterred by rock attacks
The Mount of Olives has seen numerous rock attacks in recent days by Arab residents targeting Jewish buses and vehicles, and desecration of graves has likewise been a problem, with many last year charging the police of not doing enough. Indeed, last July it was reported that over the previous year 300 rock throwing attacks had occurred at the site.
However, Rabbi Horowitz argued that the security situation of the ancient cemetery has been getting better.
"Whoever checks will see that during the last year, thank G-d, the security is being strengthened here and is improving," commented the rabbi.
"Rock throwing is down. There are problems now and then, unfortunately there are still people here who want to harm Jews that visit the Mount, but we are certain that with the police and the security forces we will succeed in overcoming them," added Rabbi Horowitz.
Changing the situation is up to visitors according to the rabbi, who said "the more that visitors to the Mount of Olives increase, the more the security will increase. I think that without a doubt we see progress in this issue too."