The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised the Israeli government for establishing a police sub-station on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives is the site of a 3,000 year old Jewish cemetery going back to the period of the biblical First Temple. It is the burial ground of the biblical prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, great rabbinical sages across the centuries as well as Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold and over 150,000 other Jews.
When the Mount of Olives was in Jordanian hands during the period 1948 to 1967, Jewish grave stones were desecrated and used, among other things, to pave a new road over part of the cemetery as well as Jordanian army latrines. In recent years, desecration of Jewish graves and attacks upon visitors by some local Arab residents have proceeded largely unhindered due to the absence of an on-site police force. The Israeli government has now installed 125 cameras and a team working to monitor them to afford additional protection to the site and to those who visit family and other grave sites.
The desecration of Jewish graves and the attacks upon and harassment of visitors to the cemetery over the years led the ZOA to take up the issue and to urge the Israeli government to institute proper security measures for the cemetery and its visitors. ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, Vice-President Steve Goldberg and Israel Office Director Jeff Daube have all testified at Knesset hearings on the subject and urged the sort of action which has now been taken.
ZOA National Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, We praise the Netanyahu government for the action it has taken to protect and preserve the Mount of Olives as an important religious and historical site and the personal safety of all those who wish to visit it. We also praise the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for expressing their clear support for these measures.
The Conference of Presidents has noted that its officials were recently attacked with large rocks when visiting the cemetery together with New York Congressmen Elliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler. It also said that a bridegroom, visiting the grave of his recently departed mother on the day of his wedding, was severely injured.
It is simply intolerable that, in the capital city of the sovereign Jewish state, an ancient, revered site like the Mount of Olives should be routinely vandalized and Jews visiting the graves of family members subjected to injury and threat. We praise Prime Minister Netanyahu, Minister of Public Security Yitzchak Aharonovich, the Mayor of the City of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, and all others involved in taking action to put an end to the desecration and life-threatening assaults that have plagued this revered Jewish site for years.