JERUSALEM (JTA) — American Jewish leaders called on the Knesset to tighten security at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem in the aftermath of a rock-throwing attack on one of the leaders and two Jewish congressmen.
During a hastily arranged emergency hearing of the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs on Monday, the American Jewish leaders expressed their concern for the ancient Jewish cemetery.
“The history of Har Hazeitim [the Mount of Olives] is the history of the Jewish people,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “If you want to keep Jerusalem united, you have to keep Har Hazeitim.”
Along with members of the International Committee for the Protection of Har Hazeitim, Hoenlein and founders Abe and Menachem Lubinsky advocated for closing portions of the road that runs through the cemetery to cut down on vandalism and grave desecration, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Members of the International Committee for the Protection of Har Hazeitim attended the hearing. The committee also held what they called an emergency public forum on Saturday night at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.
During a site visit to the cemetery last Friday, Hoenlein and U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, both New York Democrats, narrowly escaped injury from an Arab stoning attack. During the visit, the delegation saw smashed headstones and graffiti throughout the historic site located on a hillside in eastern Jerusalem.
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; Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin; famous modern rabbis such as Aryeh Kaplan and Ahron Soloveichik; Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah; Hazzan Yossele Rosenblatt; and British Parliament member Robert Maxwell.