Thursday, December 22, 2011

Daphne Anson - Desecrating The Jewish Cemetery On The Mount Of Olives: The Way It Is, & Was

Daphne Anson
21 December '11

On his blog Israel Matsav has posted a video (hat tip: reader Shirlee) of an Arab vandal caught red-handed uprooting and destroying a tombstone in the Jewish cemetery on Har HaZeitim, the Mount of Olives, the most ancient burial ground in the world that is still in use, and of course one in which scores of renowned sages repose. (That of the prophet Zachariah can be seen in this photograph, right foreground.) As Israel Matsav's blog notes, the vandal (who received a three-month gaol sentence) had been paid to carry out the task of desecration, and the incident is by no means isolated; even mourners are sometimes physically attacked.

Uploaded by on Dec 19, 2011

Hooliganism on Har HaZeitim was rampant during the Jordanian occupation of the Old City from 1948-67. And what's more, it was state-sponsored.

In 1954 the Israeli Government wrote to the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, telling him that it had (to quote the London-based Jewish Chronicle, 16 July 1954, which carried a photo of damaged tombstones):

"[C]onclusive proof of the extent to which the destruction and spoilation of the cemetery proceeded.

More than half of its area had been stripped of all signs of its consecrated character... Tombstones had been completely destroyed or removed and some part of the grounds showed marks of ploughing. Some of the missing stones are said to have been used in the construction of a cinema in Jericho.

Jews from at least 28 countries, including scores of sages and holy men, lie buried in this ancient and historic cemetery..."

With the liberation of the Old City from Jordanian rule in June 1967, the full extent of the abuse suffered by the cemetery became apparent.

The Jewish Chronicle (21 July 1967) published a photo of Jewish tombstones from the Mount of Olives that had been taken and broken by the Jordanians in order to build a wall in a military camp.

And on 4 August 1967 the paper printed a letter from Mordechai Noy of Jerusalem. It went as follows:

'It seems to me that your readers are not sufficiently informed on the extent of the desecration of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives by the Jordanians who held the territory between 1948 and 1967.

As vice-president of the Kehilloth Yerushalayim Burial Society, which serves about 50 per cent of the city's population, I investigated the situation of our cemetery on the Mount, opposite the Temple Mount.

Among about 1,500 graves no more than 30 per cent can be said to have remained undamaged, mostly because their stone or marble monuments were too heavy to remove. In all other cases the tombstones were either totally destroyed or stolen. In many cases even the masonry between the concrete foundation and the tombstones was removed or stolen.

A certain number of the graves were entirely destroyed when the Jordanians built a broad "autostrada" cutting our cemetery in two parts. This road caused the destruction of many more graves on the Jewish cemeteries on the Mount.

We are now engaged in saving what is still to be saved. Fortunately we have exact maps and registers enabling us to trace each grave still missing, and we are now marking each grave and informing the family of the exact position.

It is clear that by the desecration of these "holy places" the Jordanian authorities permitted acts of vandalism abhorrent to all civilised peoples."

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