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Ongoing vandalism at Mount of Olives cemetery (JERUSALEM POST) By ETGAR LEFKOVITS 07/28/03) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1059361966105
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About one hundred Jewish graves at Jerusalem´s ancient Mount of Olives cemetery have been vandalized in recent months by local Arabs, a Jerusalem burial society said Monday.
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Officials from Jerusalem´s General Hevra Kadisha said that the situation at what is the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world has vastly deteriorated in the last year since a lack of state funding led the dismissal of two night-time guards who were previously positioned at the site.
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A visit Monday to the desolate and neglected cemetery, located adjacent to several Arab neighborhoods, revealed about a dozen broken or otherwise shattered graves, scores of toppled tombstones, Islamic graffiti drawn on one grave and a swastika on a cemetery wall.
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Some of the graves in question had huge holes punched in them, while others had their tombstones missing, or laying on the side of the grave.
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The vandalism, taken together with with the virtually non-existent general upkeep at the site, makes the forlorn ancient cemetery—where Jewish tradition hold is the place where resurrection of the dead will begin—look dilapidated, even by low Israeli standards. "These Arab vandals are looking for every Jewish place in order to take revenge," said Hevra Kadisha security guard Oleg Kutsey, whose daily duties include reporting any damage to his bosses, and accompanying families who want to visit the mostly-abandoned cemetery.
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Kutsey is one of two guards that the Jerusalem Hevra Kadisha employs during day-time hours on their section of the cemetery. There are currently no other guards at the entire site, and none whatsoever at night, when almost all of the vandalism occurs, which, in Kutsey´s words, "happens all the time" and is then repaired.
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Overall security at the site is under the jurisdiction of the Religious Affairs Ministry, which said Monday that it has a full security plan ready for the site, but has not received the necessary funds from the Finance Ministry to carry it out.
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A Monday visit to the American section of the cemetery, which is slightly more cared for, also revealed several overturned graves and some blackened areas where bonfires had been lit recently. A large enclosed area, housing the graves of a prominent rabbi and his family, was recently firebombed by Arab assailants, Kutsey said, and then barred and locked. The late prime minister Menachem Begin´s grave is a frequent target for Arab vandals, he said.
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The Russian-born security guard, who has worked at the site for the past 12 years, added that every morning an Arab employee of the Hevra Kadisha cleans up the litter left overnight from Arab teens who hang out at the recently lit-up site, often drinking beer, smoking, and playing music from radio tapes that they connect to the electric boxes of lampposts at the cemetery.
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Adding to the problem in dealing with the vandalism and the general poor upkeep at the cemetery is that fact that a host of separate hevra kadishas, or Jewish burial societies, each own sections of the cemetery. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby noted that only four complaints over specific acts of vandalism have actually been lodged with Jerusalem police over the last six months. (© 1995-2003, The Jerusalem Post 07/28/03)
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