A Palestinian was arrested for breaking into the holiest cemetery in Israel to steal Jewish gravestones, which he allegedly uses as building material.
By United with Israel Staff
Yuval Segev, Army Radio’s reporter covering the police and Jerusalem, tweeted on Monday an image of Jewish tombstones used to build a public staircase in an Arab village.
Segev wrote, “A resident of the the West Bank was arrested on suspicion of breaking into the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and using parts of old tombstones to build stairs for the benefit of residents of the area.”
Arieh King, Jerusalem City Councilman and director and founder of the Israel Land Fund, forced an investigation of the incidents following his complaint.
King is known for fighting for the rights of Jews to live and travel in every part of Jerusalem. While Arabs freely travel throughout the city, Jews are blocked from entering many predominantly Arab areas as well as having restrictions placed on them when seeking to enter the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world for the Jewish people.
Jews have been buried on the Mount of Olives since the time of the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem, about 3,000 years ago. It is located very close to the Temple Mount. It is estimated to have between 70,000 and 150,000 graves, including many esteemed Jewish figures throughout history.
During Jordanian rule of Jerusalem (1948-1967), the cemetery suffered systematic damage. As early as 1949, Israelis observed Arab residents uprooting tombstones at the site.
In 1954, the Israeli government complained formally to the UN General Assembly concerning the destruction of graves and plowing in the area.
It is known that the Jordanian army used Jewish tombstones to build military camps in the late 1950s. Even a “tomb camp” was established for its military, where the gravestones were used to floor tents and toilets.
Hotel Inter-Continental Jerusalem, also known as “Seven Arches” for its striking architecture, was built on top of the Mount of Olives. The access road to the hotel was paved with gravestones taken from the Mount of Olives, and shredded gravestones were used as raw material for other purposes.
In order to extend a road to Jericho, the Jordanians also demolished six rows of graves, throwing the disturbed bones into an area where Jews lived.
Ancient tombstones around the tomb of Zechariah were also disturbed by the Jordanians in order to expand an access road into the village of Shiloach.
Arabs have used Jewish gravestones to build their own residential quarters, storerooms for animals, places for collecting garbage, and other degrading functions, according to the Mount of Olives website.
Famous Jewish personalities buried at the holy site include Menachem Begin, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura, Rabbi Yehuda HeHasid (Rabbi Judah the Pious), to name a few.
The suspect has denied the charges.
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