Menachem Lubinsky, co-chairman for the International Committee of the Preservation of Har HaZeitim, spoke to Arutz Sheva this week -- and explained the true story behind the official policies at the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives has become the "drug capital of east Jerusalem" and also was a spot for donkey races; the Palestinian Arabs neglected and abused the site, desecrating graves to a much greater extent than today.
"This is the national cemetery of the Jewish people," he noted. "It represents our history, going back 3,000 years, from the time of Dovid HaMelech [King David - ed.]."
Lubinsky added that "the luminaries and the notables" of the Jewish people are buried on Mount of Olives, including several prophets, leaders, and scholars; former Prime Minister Menachem Begin is also buried there.
He wondered whether any other people would have endured the neglect and abuse to their national cemetery.
Lubinsky then recounted how the Committee was established, and how he, his brother Avraham, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, approached Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and discussed the need for change on the Mount in 2010. Their arguments were based on a lengthy report from then-State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on the deterioration of the Mount.
Within two years, the Committee had successfully installed security cameras, built an underground monitoring room, and set up a specific Israel Police branch for the Mount - the first time security had been established there for "hundreds of years."
Problems persist at Mount of Olives, however, due to its location.
"[Mount of Olives] is located at the heart of east Jerusalem," he noted. "It is surrounded by Arab communities, all around."
Lubinsky cited the "lawlessness" of the communities, and stated that 50,000 illegal homes for Arabs have been built there since 1967.
"If an Arab wants to drive in that part of Jerusalem without a driver's license, he can. There's no law," he noted. "If somebody wants to expand his home without a permit, he can. There's no law."
Thus, he said, issues with Mount of Olives reflect a host of problems with the government's overarching policy on Jerusalem.
Jewish presence on the site, however, "prevents Arabs from creating a contiguous, illegal city that would go from Ramallah all the way to the doors of West Jerusalem."
"The history there is so rich," he added. "If we don't preserve this 2.2 kilometers, we are essentially conceding on the heart and the history of Jerusalem."