On Monday, Arutz Sheva, reported that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin went to the Mount of Olives cemetery to visit the graves of his parents, followed by a visit to the Afghan section, which “has suffered intensely from Arab-Muslim vandalism in the last few months.” Gravesites at the ancient Jewish Cemetery at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where over a 150,000 persons are reportedly buried, have been repeatedly desecrated over the last five years, and reportedly neglected far beforehand.
During this time, 62 graves were been reportedly attacked. “Some had garbage strewn around them and on others the headstones were broken,” reported The Jerusalem Post. Security cameras had been installed on three separate occasions, but they were broken or stolen. The Post also reported that a “high fence” was being considered to protect the Afghan section.
Rivlin was informed that visitors to the Mount of Olives who go there to visit the graves of loved ones feel insecure and are often pelted with stones. After experiencing such danger, many have forbidden other relatives from visiting the site. The police officer said that security had been enhanced in recent weeks and that police regularly patrolled the area.
Rivlin’s visit comes just weeks after the Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry proposed to double the security budget at the Mount of Olives cemetery, which followed an attack in early June there. Several gravestones at the cemetery were desecrated in March; restoration projects have been discussed far prior, in 2006, as well.
Rivlin was reportedly accompanied by Rabbi Rafael Bakshi, who is in charge of the Afghan Section, and four relatives of the Jews who are buried there, reported Arutz Sheva. Said Rivlin, “If something like this had happened anywhere else in the world, we would have heard a loud outcry. There is no doubt that as the sovereign power, we must do all that we can to prevent such acts. This is a sensitive area, where most of the residents want to live in peace, and we must stop the provocation. It cannot be that we cannot stop such terrible vandalism in our own country.”
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.