JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than a dozen graves at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem were vandalized, the latest in a series of attacks on one of Judaism’s oldest cemeteries.
On June 14, some 14 graves were damaged by Arab youths wielding sledgehammers, according to private security guards stationed at the iconic cemetery located in eastern Jerusalem. At least five of the damaged gravesites are those of Americans buried in the cemetery, according to Rabbi Moshe Bezalel Buzokovsky of the Chevra Kadisha.
The recent damage is in addition to vandalism sustained at the cemetery last month on Nakba Day, or Catastrophe Day, when Arabs mark the declaration of the state of Israel. During riots, Palestinians hurled large rocks and boulders toward the graves, chipping and breaking at least 15. Arab youths also vandalized or destroyed nearly 40 newly installed surveillance cameras in the cemetery, according to the International Committee for the Preservation of Har HaZeitim. Har HaZeitim is the Hebrew name for the Mount of Olives.
At the same time, local Arabs began illegally expanding a mosque to within 15 feet of the grave of Menachem Begin, according to the committee.
In the last year, efforts of the committee have resulted in the restoration of 2,000 of an estimated 40,000 graves that were destroyed prior to 1967 under Jordanian rule, an increased private security presence as well as the installation of 50 surveillance cameras and fluorescent lighting.
There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the Mount, where Jews have been buried since biblical times. Notable individuals buried there include the prophets Zechariah, Malachi and Hagai; famous modern rabbis such as Aryeh Kaplan and Ahron Soloveichik; Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah; Hazzan Yossele Rosenblatt; and British Parliament member Robert Maxwell.