Jews were buried in the Har HaZeisim (Mount of Olives) Cemetery in Jerusalem since Biblical times. Nevi’im (Prophets) discussed it and were buried in it. Great rabbis throughout history were buried there as well. Renowned Chassidishe Rebbeim are interred there. More than 150,000 graves are there. During the Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), as many as 50,000 graves were vandalized.
Har HaZeisim was liberated from the Jordanians in 1967 and much restoration was undertaken. However, sad reports of neglect and deliberate Arab destruction continue to grow. Chassidim refrain from visiting the burial sites of their rebbeim buried there out of fear. Funerals are attacked. Ordinary visits are fraught with fear.
Recently, during a visit in New York, the woeful situation was brought to the attention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister was shocked by what he heard. Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s burial place on Har HaZeisim is forlorn and neglected. Frequently vandalized, the gravesite is quickly repaired by his son, MK Benny Begin. Other national heroes from the War of Independence are interred there as well, exposed to the same level of neglect and disrespect.
On Tuesday, August 24, Ari Cytrin, Elimelech Fastag, Sonny Ganger, Naftali Gold, Stanley Hillelsohn, Malcolm Hoenlein, Zev Leibiker, Peretz Levine, Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein, Menachem Lubinsky, Kenneth Pinczower, Esq., Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Esq., Avrohom Zweigenhaft, and myself met and heard Avrohom Lubinsky describe many of the problems being faced and possible solutions. The meeting was held in the home of Elimelech Fastag in Flatbush. A video showing the lamentable state of the important Jewish historical cemetery was viewed. As a first step, the group resolved to do whatever is necessary to galvanize the Israeli government in tackling the problems and restoring the glory of the Har HaZeisim cemetery.