Today was my Father’s yahrzeit – may his memory be for a blessing. When you think about all the Jews in the world throughout our long history, he is one of the relatively small number who merited to be buried on Har HaZaytim, the Mount of Olives, arguably the holiest Jewish cemetery on earth. You would think that a person visiting his father’s grave on the anniversary of his death should be able to do so without having his car pelted with stones by Arabs on the rampage. Not on the Mount of Olives.
Some people enjoy going to a golfing range to hits buckets of balls down a fairway. Others like stepping into a batter’s cage and swinging at balls thrown at them by a mechanical arm. Bowlers like knocking down the pins at the other end of the alley. And Arabs enjoy throwing stones at Jewish cars on their way to pay respects to their departed on the Mount of Olives.
Yesterday, I phoned the Chevre Kadisha burial society in charge of the area where my Father is buried and told them what time we would be reaching the Mount of Olives. As a part of their afterlife package, they send a security patrol car along to accompany mourners. The security guards don’t really do anything, but since it’s a mitzvah to guard over one’s life, I always give them a call to alert them when I’ll be coming. Last year, our car was stoned as well, and while no one was physically injured, thank G-d, it isn’t a pleasant feeling hearing rocks clatter on the roof and hood of your car like angry hailstones. People I know have been injured and hospitalized while driving to and from the Mount of Olives. It’s a little like entering Jurassic Park in a safari vehicle when the dinosaurs are on the rampage.
The security car was waiting for us when we reached the rendezvous point, just after Hebrew University, by the right turn to the Mount of Olives. I was driving a van with rock-proof windows, which I borrowed from a friend because our sedan, which followed in the rear of the three-car caravan, is too small to transport a minyan of passengers. The security car, with its two armed guards, drove off in the lead. Just after the site of the Beit Orot Yeshiva, the security car took a surprise right turn which leads down the mountain, then up the steep incline toward the walls of the Old City. This route circumvented our having to pass through the one-thousand yard stretch of no-man’s land where Arab school children, and Islamic high-school students, spend their exercise class hurling stones on passing Jewish vehicles. Of course, it isn’t really no-man’s land. Israel is supposedly the ruling authority in Jerusalem, but you wouldn’t know it by the rock-throwing arcade up on the Mount of Olives.
Anyway, when we reached the walls of the Old City, we headed in the direction of the Kotel, following along the route of the Paratroopers in the Six-Day War, when we supposedly recaptured Jerusalem. At the intersection, instead of turning right toward the Kotel, we turned left turned the foot of the cemetery, then headed once again up the steep incline until we reached the summit of the Mount of Olives, supposedly a safe distance from the murderers in wait. Why murderers? Before rocks thrown by Arabs have killed Jewish drivers and their passengers in the past. Of course, the Arabs know about this roundabout path to the cemetery, and as we returned to the main road, the van I was driving was hit with a barrage of stones. The security vehicle drove on without looking back. My wife and daughter, sitting in the wide front seat beside me, didn’t appreciate this un-cousin like welcome, and my wife started cursing our assailants with words that we unfortunately don’t hear from Bibi Netanyahu and our Minister of Defense. I kept driving forward before the maniacal dinosaurs could surround us. The car behind us, filled with my sons and their friends, managed also to escape the enraged creatures in the jungle of East Jerusalem.
When we reached my Father’s gravesite and told the Chevre Kadisha’s security guards that our car had been stoned, they raised their hands in a hopeless, impotent gesture. “You can’t put a soldier behind every tree,” one said, as if there was no remedy to the problem. But, of course, there’s a remedy. First, you can cut down all of the trees in the Arab neighborhood along the road to the Mount of Olives. Then you can bulldoze all of the houses and buildings to the ground like Ariel Sharon did to Gush Katif. Then you can send all of the stone throwers and their families to Washington D.C. where President Obama can host them in tents on the White House lawn. There is a lot you could do to protect Jews on their way to visit their departed on the Mount of Olives, but to do it, you have to be a leader, not a mouse.