Video by Josh Wander / 0404
Local Arabs are the likely suspects behind a brush fire that was spotted at the ancient Jewish cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives around midnight.
The fire's loci were right next to some of the graves.
Firefighters quickly wrested control of the flames and prevented them from spreading throughout the cemetery. In the course of putting out the flames, firefighters noticed that some of the graves had been vandalized.
An investigator for Jerusalem's Fire Brigade determined that the fire was the result of arson.
'I am ashamed'
In the wake of ongoing vandalism and damage to the graves there, members of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee visited the Mount of Olives cemetery in August. MK David Amsalem, chairman of the committee, slammed police for failing to take appropriate measures to prevent the ongoing vandalism, as well as acts of violence against Jews who visit the site.
The Mount of Olives cemetery has for thousands of years been the final resting place for Jews from Israel and the world over, and is the site where many of the sages and leaders of Jewish communities have been buried. In recent years, however, many Jewish graves at the cemetery have been desecrated and vandalized by Arabs who live in adjacent neighborhoods. Arrests in such cases have been rare.
Israelis are likely to find themselves targets of attacks in the areas around the cemetery. several Israeli border police officers were wounded in a car-terror attack in Jerusalem May 20, close to the Mount of Olives, in the A-Tur neighborhood. The terrorist was shot and critically wounded by police, and died of his wounds shortly after.
Speaking on the tour, Amsalem said that he was “sick and tired of hearing that there is no budget to defend this place. I am ashamed both as a Knesset member and an Israeli at the state of the security situation here. We will follow the efforts of police very closely to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to visit the cemetery in complete safety.”
Commenting on the performance of police, MK Uri Maklev said that claims that terror attacks were down “are not being felt by the public. The bottom line is that orphans beg us not to bury their parents here.” Even with the establishment of a police station and the installation of security cameras in recent years, said Maklev, police were either unable or unwilling to secure the rights of Jews to visit their loved ones.
“As long as people refuse to visit this cemetery, you have failed,” he added.