Arson at Mt. of Olives Cemetery (file)
Arson at Mt. of Olives Cemetery (file)Jerusalem Cemetery Council

The Israeli government has reportedly hired Arabs from the Ras el-Amoud neighborhood to guard over the Mount of Olives cemetery, upon the advice of the police and Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet). The ancient cemetery has been plagued by rampant Arab vandalism for years, and many Jews fear going there because of frequent rock and firebomb ambushes on the roads approaching the cemetery.

The Arabs hired as guards are reportedly three members of the local 'Ith clan. Jerusalem Councilor Aryeh King has opposed the measure, saying that the three do not actually spend much time at the site, and that the way they were hired looks more like a protection racket than anything else.

Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, director of the Council of Cemeteries in Jerusalem, told Arutz Sheva that the Arabs were hired as a temporary "experiment" until a fence is built along three kilometers of the cemetery's perimeter. He stressed that they are only tasked with preventing vandalism at the grave sites, while the Israel Police and Border Police are in charge of providing security along the road leading to the cemetery, and the Ministry of Construction and Housing provides escorts for families that visit the Mount for funerals or memorials.

Horowitz said that security at the cemetery has improved in the last two weeks, and that police have beefed up their presence at the Mount of Olives Cemetery, thus preventing the current terror wave from spilling over into the cemetery and its approaches.

The hiring of the Arab clan to protect the graves was decided upon because "the police are not able to provide a solution for every single grave," he said, whereas the Arab clan is supposed to create deterrence vis-à-vis its neighbors, due to the unwritten rules according to which each clan stays away from the other's territory.

Asked if the arrangement is, in effect, a protection racket, Horowitz said that he cannot delve into the considerations of the police and the ISA. "I know that the ISA utilizes many resources, some of which we are aware of and some not, some of which we like and some we don't."