Visitors to Mt. of Olives Demand More Protection

Visitors to the tomb of Rabbi Ovadia Mibartenura, a medieval commentator on the Mishna, are demanding extra police protection.

David Lev ,

Mount of Olives cemetery (file)
Mount of Olives cemetery (file)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Visitors to the tomb of Rabbi Ovadia Mibartenura, a medieval commentator on the Mishna, are demanding extra police protection at the site, located on the Mount of Olives. The visitors have complained numerous times of attacks by local Arabs, who throw rocks at visitors and intimidate them verbally and physically.

It was just the latest in a long series of complaints by Jewish visitors to one of the most revered sites in Israel. Speaking out on behalf of hapless visitors to the site who are attacked over and over, 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 Ovadia 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.”

On Sunday, two activists, Jeff Dabah and Harvey Schwartz met Sunday with MK Reuven Rivlin on the lack of security on the Mount. The two presented Rivlin, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, with statistics that portrayed the difficult situation Jewish visitors to the site experience. They explained to Rivlin that attacks against Jews actually began long before they arrived at the cemetery; as Jews drove through the Maale Zeitim area (Ras el-Amud), they were attacked by Arabs on a regular basis.

Rivlin told the pair that his own parents were buried at the site, and he was well aware of the problems there. He promised to assist Jewish groups seeking to ensure safe worship for Jews at the site, and to work with police to ensure real security in the area. “Tens of thousands of Jews are buried on the Mount of Olives, and it is a symbol for Jews around the world,” Rivlin said. “We cannot have a situation where Jews cannot ascend the Mount of Olives and pray there without interference. We must do everything to achieve security there,” he added.