By Michael Bachner/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – The Jerusalem Municipality Finance Committee approved on Tuesday the transfer of 1.5 million shekels (nearly US$400,000) to reinforce security at Jerusalem’s ancient Mount of Olives cemetery following a rash of violence against Jewish visitors and vandalism of Jewish graves. On the same day, an Arab-Israeli man was sentenced to prison for attacking Jews on the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery is the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, dating back 3,000 years to the time of the First Temple – and is still in use today. It houses some 70,000 tombs from different historical eras, including the graves of many prominent rabbis, writers, and political leaders.
The cemetery is surrounded by Arab neighborhoods such as A-Tur, Ras Al-Amud and Al-Sawana. Many Jews have been targeted over the years in and near these neighborhoods while making their way to visit the cemetery. Additionally, many graves have been torched, smashed, or sprayed with graffiti.
The new plan is intended to improve the personal safety of those ascending the mount and to prevent vandalism and desecration of the graves. It will include the construction of fences, installation of gates, and placement of additional security measures in the area of the mount.
“The Mount of Olives is a holy place which is very important to the Israeli people,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in a statement. “We are obligated to preserve its sanctity and the safety of its visitors. We will not allow it to be harmed and desecrated.”
Also on Tuesday, Khalil Jayousi, a 21-year-old resident of A-Tur, was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison for organizing and leading violent riots on the Mount of Olives during which pipe-bombs and firebombs were thrown at Israeli civilians and security forces.
The riots were held in the summer of 2014, following the murder of Jerusalem-Arab teenager Muhammad Abu-Khdeir by Israeli extremists and Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Fireworks, rocks, and explosives were hurled at a Jewish home and security forces who were guarding it. In one case, fireworks were also used to attack Jewish drivers in their cars.
According to three detailed indictments filed against Jayousi at the Jerusalem District Court, he purchased and supplied arms to dozens of teenage rioters, and also actively participated in the violent riots.
Jayousi, who recently served a prison term for similar offenses, was convicted of aggravated assault, carrying and manufacturing weapons, and negligent and reckless use of explosives. According to the indictment, his actions were motivated by a desire to attack Jews.