Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir, Tazpit News Agency
Destroyed headstones in the Mount of Olives cemetery.

Yochanan Gol looks at his uncle’s tombstone in dismay. A huge black burnt circle marks his grave, remnants of a torching that has blacked out the date of his birth and passing. “This is the new tombstone that I had just purchased to replace the original that they smashed into bits,” he explained in an interview with Tazpit News Agency last week.

Gol’s uncle’s grave is among the dozen or so that have been defaced – either shattered or blackened by fire – in attacks on the Afghan Jewish section of the Mount of Olives cemetery by Palestinians from local neighborhoods nearby.  Plastic bags full of garbage and baby diapers can also be seen on the tombstones.

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“Despite the attacks on the cemetery, my 89-year-old uncle wanted to be buried here,” said Gol. Gol’s uncle, Yitzhak made aliyah with the rest of the Gol family to Israel from Herat, Afghanistan in 1957.  “He wanted to be near his grandparents and his sister, who are also buried here.”

Less than a month after Gol’s uncle was buried on the Mount of Olives in April, his tombstone had been demolished.

After the vandalism occurred, Gol figured that the next tombstone had to be built in a way that would adapt to the circumstances. “We had the second tombstone built much closer to the ground and made sure that there weren’t any hollow areas between the marble stone and the ground. We also used thicker marble –  that way it couldn’t be smashed,” he explains.  “But they found another way to destroy the new one – by burning it.”

“I’ve been living here for 19 years on the Mount of Olives and these attacks are ongoing,” said Jerusalem city council member, Aryeh King to Tazpit News Agency. “This current attack is one of the worst that I’ve seen on this cemetery,” he said.

The Afghanistan Jewish section is the most heavily targeted burial ground in of all the Mount of Olives, according to King. “If anything like this happened to a Jewish cemetery elsewhere in the world, in Poland, Rome, or Paris, that would make headlines – but here it has become something regular, usual.”

The Mount of Olives is the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, with 150,000 to 200,000 graves that include ancient prophets, state leaders, revered rabbis, among other important figures and simple folk. They are buried in the different plots according to different origins that include Yemenite, North African, Persian, Babylonian, Georgian, Galicia, Ashkenazi, Hassidic, and others. For 3,000 years, the Mount of Olives has been the preferred site for burial because Jewish tradition dictates that the resurrection process during the Messianic days will take place on the mount.

King David’s son, Absalom is buried there as well as the prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi from Biblical times.

Jewish organizations bought the Afghan plot before 1948 according to Yochanan Gol, who is also a licensed tour guide. But the burial of Afghanistan Jews in the section owned by the Afghan Jewish Committee only took place after the Six Day War in 1967. “Since then, there’s been a history of destruction here,” Gol said. “It’s unbelievable that this happens in our own capital and country.”

However, under Jordanian rule, the destruction was much worse – massive and systematic desecration of the tombstones took place from 1948-1967.  The Jordanians erected a gas station on the ancient graves and also attempted to pave a road through the cemeteries. Some of the tombstones were used as paving stones for  Jordanian army camps and a new hotel. By 1967, around 38,000 tombstones had been smashed or damaged. Under Israeli rule, large sections of the cemetery have been rehabilitated and restored.

Moreover, Gol has not only had to deal with his uncle’s tombstone defacement but also with threats to his own security when travelling to the Mount of Olives. “Two weeks after the first visit to the tomb, we came again and some Arabs attacked me and my nephew. My vehicle was hit with stones and bottles and my car destroyed completely. We were lucky that we weren’t in the car at the time. I called the police and they chased after the perpetrators but couldn’t catch them.”

Indeed, visitors coming to pay respects to their loved ones often request security escorts provided by Israel’s Ministry of Housing and Construction during visits to the Mount of Olives. In addition to the tombstone vandalism, stone-throwing at cars and other attacks during funerals have been frequent occurrences over the years.

Following the continued tombstone vandalism and rock-throwing incidents, members of Israel’s Knesset last week called for stronger security measures throughout the mount.

“There is no law, no police,” said King. “This is the Wild West, or the Wild East and it has to stop.”

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37 COMMENTS

  1. However, under Jordanian rule, the destruction was much worse – massive and systematic desecration of the tombstones took place from 1948-1967. The Jordanians erected a gas station on the ancient graves and also attempted to pave a road through the cemeteries. Some of the tombstones were used as paving stones for Jordanian army camps and a new hotel. By 1967, around 38,000 tombstones had been smashed or damaged. Under Israeli rule, large sections of the cemetery have been rehabilitated and restored.

  2. When you have to say something unpleasant, you find yourself want to preface it with an apology. As in "sorry, but…….."
    Well, congratulate me, I've surmounted that feeling for this post.
    Muslims want to and do kill, because someone has penned a supposed image of their Profit, a non-crime. So how about they get repaid in kind for a real crime. Enough! Put a stop to it by whatever means it takes.
    Make the price for these acts HIGH!

  3. The walls need to be higher, topped with electrified wire with enough voltage to incinerate the subhuman swine offal committing these acts. I agree with Brett Greenberg; we need groups like the Irgun and Stern. It is high time to deal with terrorism and vandalism with an iron fist. These 'people' glorify death, so, in order to not seem like they are being discriminated against they should be given what they seek. It's the polite thing to do.

  4. JUST IMAGINE IF JEWS BEHAVED LIKE THAT AND DESECRATED MUSLIM GRAVES, THERE WOULD BE WORLD WIDE RIOTS FROM THE MUSLIMS.
    TIME FOR THE CHRISTIAN WORLD TO STOP THEIR ANTI SEMITISM AND HATRED OF ISRAEL, ISRAEL IS THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE ENTIRE MIDDLE EAST . WHERE CHRISTIAN , JEWISH AND MUSLIM GRAVES ARE CARED FOR. wHERE CHRISTIANS ARE PROTECTED BY L;AW, WHERE CHRUISTIAN POPULATION IIS GROWING.
    WHARE ARE THE CHRISTIANS WHO LIVED IN BETHLEHEM?
    THE CHURCHES ARE ALL PROTECTED AND CARED FOR.NO CHRISTIAN HLY BOOKS ARE DESTROYED.
    YET, THE CHRISTIAN WORLD SUPPORTS THOSE WHO HATE CHRISTIANS.

  5. AND DONT FORGET THE 56 SYNAGOGUES WITH ALL THE HOLY BOOKS, WERE DESTROYED BY JORDAN WHEN THEY OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM..
    TIME FOR OBAMA ND THE WORLD TO STOP TELLING ISRAEL TO STOP BUILDING IN ISRAEL.ALL OF JERUSALEM IS JEWISH. SAME APPLIES TO JUDEA AND SAMARIA (WESTBANMK)>
    THESE AREAS WERE OCCUPIED BY JORDAN. NOW IT HAS REVERTED TO WHT GOD GAVE THE JEWS.

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