US Jewish Mission Shocked by Mt. Of Olives Horror

'We were appalled to see the savage sight,' says AFSI's Helen Freedman. 'Countless graves ripped open and tombstones lying broken.'

Gil Ronen ,

Mount of Olives cemetery
Mount of Olives cemetery
Janet Lehr, Judy Kadish

A mission of US Jewish activists for Israel – the Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) Chizuk mission, which wraps up a week-long visit to Israel – was shocked by what it saw at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem, earlier in the week. The group was guided at the cemetery by Jerusalem Council Member Arieh King.

“To our horror, we were shown countless graves ripped open and tombstones lying broken and destroyed in the Gerrer hassidim section of the cemetery,” AFSI Director Helen Freedman told Arutz Sheva. “We saw security cameras burned and destroyed.”

“Sufficient cameras existed in the area that could have photographed the carnage, and probably did, but no arrests were made, nor was there an outcry from Israeli society,” she added. “Councilman King informed us that the police consistently overlook Arab crime and vandalism because they have instructions to hold off. Thus, desecration of the graves on Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives) will continue as Arabs become emboldened by the lack of consequences for their actions.

“As American Jews visiting the holy cemetery,” said Freedman, “we were appalled to see the savage sight, and also alarmed to hear Councilman King tell us that there was another part of the cemetery to which we definitely couldn't go for fear of having stones thrown at us. Is this situation to be tolerated by a sovereign nation?”

All photos: Janet Lehr and Judy Kadish

On Monday, police arrested some of the suspected culprits behind the constant desecration of the Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery. Three Arab suspects, aged 22, 15.5 and 12, are residents of the north-eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur, and are thought to have destroyed graves at the site over the course of the past month. Security cameras at the cemetery have also been destroyed, and fires set on the tombs of hassidic leaders.

On October 12, dozens of graves at the cemetery were uprooted and smashed, and following the event police launched an investigation that led to the arrest Monday. The vandals admitted to the October 12 attack on the graves under investigation, and other sources tied them not only to that event but also to additional acts of vandalism in which they destroyed graves.

Councilman King, who lives in Ma'ale Hazeitim on the Mount of Olives, told Arutz Sheva last Sunday that all members of the government are to blame for the lack of security at the cemetery. King detailed the massive breakdown in law enforcement in the neighborhood, saying the solution is for the government to "allow Jerusalem police officers to act like officers and not like kindergarten teachers."

AFSI mission