“The UK is correct to call Har Hazeisim “occupied” but not in the sense that they meant it,” said Avrohom Lubinsky, chairman of the International Committee for Har Hazeisim (ICHH). “It is occupied by the graves of 150,000 Jews over 3,000 years including the greatest luminaries of the Jewish people dating back to the Nevi’im.” Lubinsky was reacting to the itinerary released by the British Government in London for the visit of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, to the grave of Princess Alice of Battenberg, his great grandmother, the mother of Prince Philip, who is buried in a small Christian plot on Har Hazeisim. The British itinerary referred to Har Hazeisim as the “occupied” Mt. of Olives.
Said Lubinsky: “If the Prince took the time to tour Har Hazeisim he would see grave after grave with Jewish markings and perhaps understand that such a hallow Jewish site can only be cared for by the heirs and families of those who “occupy” the holy site which incidentally was the service mountain for the kohanim during the times of the Bais Hamikdash.”
The ICHH also had some choice words for UNESCO which continues to disparage Jewish history in Yerushalayim in many ways and recently practically ignored an invitation to Madame Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of UNESCO, to visit Har Hazeisim. In his invitation, Jeff Daube, co-chairman of the ICHH- Israel Chapter and director of the Israel Office of the ZOA, wrote: “UNESCO delegates may be unaware of the Jewish nation’s rich 3,000 plus year old Jerusalem heritage. I would gladly escort a UNESCO delegation for a tour/briefing on the Mount of Olives since it is arguably the most extensive and oldest extant repository of Jewish history in Jerusalem.”
But in response, Nicolas Kassianides, the Assistant Director-General, merely refers to a “consensual decision” by the board of UNESCO, which “has opened new opportunities for dialogue and cooperation” without either accepting or rejecting the invitation. “It is no surprise that UNESCO is ignoring our invitation to see the Jewish character of Har Hazeisim especially since it is only a year since they took a vote disavowing Israel’s sovereignty over Yerushalayim despite the fact that the 22-10 vote was far from unanimous as 10 nations opposed and 23 countries abstained,” said an ICHH statement. “When they see lashon hakodesh all over the cemetery they will imediately see the big lie of the lack of a connection to Judaism and recognzie that nothing can be more Jewish than Har Hazeisim.” In 2016, UNESCO said that there was no connection betweem the Har Habayis and Judaism, calling the Har Habayis Haram al Shariff.
“While we continue to focus on security, we cannot ignore attempts at revisionism that denies the historical Jewish connection to Har Hazeisim,” the ICHH statement continued. “As the historic international cemetery of the Jewish people, tens of thousands of Jews from around the world have a strong connection to the holy site as their relatives and spiritual leaders are buried there.” Since being founded in 2010, the ICHH has been responsible for the installation of a network of surveillance cameras, a police substation, major upgrades in infrastructure, new gating and fencing and a permanent presence of the Border Police. These measures have restored security to Har Hazeisim and more than 2500 people visit each day, a far cry from the 250 that came only a year ago. Despite being 3000 years old, an estimated 400 burials still take place on Har Hazeisim each year.