The sheer number is almost inconceivable. 25,000 Jewish graves, desecrated and destroyed, and no, not in a remote abandoned corner of the United States. This unprecedented level of magnitude actually took place on one of Jerusalem’s most sacred grounds: Har Hazeitim, the Mount of Olives. Har Hazeitim is second only to the Temple Mount and Kotel area in terms of holiness in Jerusalem. Historically, it was not only the service mountain for both Jewish Temples, but has also served as Jerusalem’s most sacred burial ground, with many of the most respected luminaries having been continuously buried there, from the times of the First Temple, through today.
It was these holy graves that were desecrated en masse via Jordanian bulldozers brought in to raze the final resting places of these great Tzaddikim. Drug infestation and donkey races ensued where there was once holy prayers. It was these same bulldozers that became things of legend when stories began to circulate of these machines mysteriously breaking down just as they attempted to raze the graves of our holiest leaders; graves of the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, the Rashash, Rav Ovadya M’Bartenura, and even the prophets Chaggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and Chulda.
This is also the site that has now become the focus of the largest single grave restoration project ever attempted in the Jewish world. Each grave requires meticulous inspection through sonar technology and, often, rabbinic supervision to ensure proper care and honor for the dead. And yet, a coalition has been formed- the International Committee for Har Hazeitim- whose intentions is to do just that. “It is completely unfathomable that Jews buried on this holy site should not have the full benefit of a Jewish burial which includes having a tombstone (matzeivah),” explains Menachem Lubinsky, co-chairman of the International Committee for Har Hazeitim (ICHH). ” As Jews one of our most important obligations is to honor the dead.”
The ICHH is the same entity which has been active since 2010 and is seen as largely responsible for transforming the security situation on Har Hazeitim. Creating a Knesset caucus on the message that Har Hazeitim is no less than the ‘international historic cemetery of the Jewish People,’ the ICHH ended up with 67 members in their caucus and bipartisan support across all sides of the political aisle. They also advocated for the creation of a satellite police station on site, protective fencing to enclose the area and strategic lighting to be installed in order to illuminate the mountain and prevent nightly vandalism. As a result, attacks have all but ceased and thousands of Jews now flock to the site daily and can walk there freely.
The Jewish Nation has now been given an unprecedented opportunity to correct the inconceivable wrong done to these holy Jews during the years the area was under Jordanian control between 1948-1967. It is one whose mystical symbolism is not lost on its participants, who cite the sources which list Har Hazeitim as the future ‘staging ground’ where the Jewish Messiah will judge each Jew for their righteousness. However, they also acknowledge that an undertaking of this magnitude requires each Jew to participate and essentially adopt part, or all, of a grave of a fellow Jew buried there. ‘This is the greatest Chesed (kindness) there is – that of Chesed Shel Emet for those that have passed- and one that not only rectifies the past, but also revives the mountain for the future. I can think of no greater merit than having these holiest of Jews hopefully advocate on our behalf, and that of all Am Yisrael,’ concludes Lubinsky.
To help restore and adopt a grave of these great luminaries, please send in your dedication here.