The Mount of Olives and Me

During December 1947, my maternal great-grandmother Mascha Reizel (nee Sofer) Hillman was being buried on Har Hazeitim. While the funeral procession was taking place, it was attacked by Arabs and the majority of the participants were murdered ruthlessly. Those that were fortunate to survive had to hide and bury the dead during the darkness of night.

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Gary Fitleberg

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The Mount of Olives, or as it is originally called in Hebrew, Har Hazeitim, is the oldest (other than Hebron) and largest ancient biblical cemetery for Jews in the entire world. It is believed that there the Resurrection of the Dead will take place at the end of time.

Zechariah prophesized, "Behold the Day of the Lord cometh? and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem? and men shall dwell thereto and there shall be no more extermination, but Jerusalem shall dwell thereto and there shall be no more extermination, but Jerusalem shall dwell safely?." (Zechariah 14, 1-11)

Ezekiel also places the Mount of Olives as an important place in his vision of the end of days: "The glory of the Lord will arise and stand upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city." (Ezekiel 11:23)

And at the end of days, the Messiah will ascend the Mount and it will be there Elijah shall blow his trumpet for the resurrection of the dead.

The sanctity of the site is especially emphasized throughout Jewish history since the beginning.

This was the place that King David was accustomed to worship G-d. The sanctity was apparently what prompted King Solomon to build a "high place in the Mount that is before Jerusalem." (I Kings 11:7)

Especially during the period of the Second Temple, the importance and sanctity of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem was exhibited. The sacrifice of the red heifer was burnt as an offering upon it. At the order of the Sanhedrin, beacons would be lit on the Mount of Olives ("har ha-meshichah" or "Mount of Annointing"), in order to announce the sanctification of the new moon.

Annual pilgrimages took place to the Mount of Olives during the month of Tishrei. On the festival of Hoshana Rabba, the Palestinian (not Arab-Muslim, but Jewish) academy's Rosh Yeshiva announced the "Proclamation of the Mount of Olives" concerning the new moons, the festivals and the intercalation of years, a practice based on the ancient kindling of the beacons. On the same day, the Rosh Yeshiva appointed members to the "Great Sanhedrin" and accorded titles of honor to those who had worked in favor of the Palestinian academy (yeshiva).

During December 1947, my maternal great-grandmother Mascha Reizel (nee Sofer) Hillman was being buried on Har Hazeitim. While the funeral procession was taking place, it was attacked by Arabs and the majority of the participants were murdered ruthlessly. Those that were fortunate to survive had to hide and bury the dead during the darkness of night.

One must point out this was during the time when the Holy Land was called Palestine. The Jewish State of Israel had not yet been re-established formally. Judea and Samaria had not yet been falsely and wrongly called "West Bank" (or so-called "occupied" or "Palestinian" territories) by the world. In other words, what excuse was there then for the terrorist Arab attacks? Simple. They were Jews. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Once Israel was established formally as a Jewish state on May 15, 1948, it lost the land of Har Hazeitim, as well as the rest of the Holy City of Jerusalem, when nine Arab nations attacked the borders of the new nation-state. It was then, and only then, that it became conquered by Jordan and illegally "occupied" for nineteen years, from 1948 through 1967. Israel reconquered its land in yet another defensive war in 1967, when the Arabs attacked bent on the annihilation of the state. It was only during Jordan's illegal occupation that the political invention of a "West Bank" was created. In other words, the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria were never ever an independent Arab "Palestine" or a homeland for a "Palestinian" nation or people. So-called "Jordanians" and "Palestinians" are one and the same people ? Arabs. Nothing more. Nothing less.

During the illegal Jordanian-Palestinian "occupation", the Arabs desecrated the Holy Jewish cemetery of Har Hazeitim, using many of the gravestones for latrines, roads and sidewalks. A terrible tragedy.

What did the world do about it? Absolutely nothing. No hoopla or international court of justice or media outrage whatsoever.

During a trip to Israel in 1994, I was told it was much too dangerous to venture to the Mount of Olives. What about my "Right of Return" to pay my respects to my relatives? I defiantly and intentionally went anyway to honor many family members from many generations buried there per Jewish tradition. It was a very special and touching moment to place a stone on my great-grandmother Mascha Reizel's grave as well as on her father's and grandfather's gravestones.

During an Israeli Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzma'ut) festival in Los Angeles in 2003, I saw an exhibit of photography. Upon seeing a beautiful photograph of the Mount of Olives, I shared my personal story with the photographer. He told me that if I went to the Mount of Olives today, I would be boldly and coldly murdered by the Arabs (so-called "Palestinians") without even the blink of an eye.

What gives these marauders and murderers the right to prevent me from paying homage and honoring my deceased family in the oldest (other than Hebron) and largest Jewish cemetery in the entire world, since ancient biblical times? Why even consider giving even one square inch of Holy Jewish Land, a gift from G-d, to Arab marauders and murderers? Especially eastern Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives?


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