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Who Gets Sovereignty Over Jerusalem's Dead?

Courtesy of Ha'aretz

Rumors - undenied - that the Barak government would cede sovereignty over the Mount of Olives to the Palestinians have raised a storm among religious and ultra-orthodox parties.

The mount, second only to the Temple Mount in importance in Judaic tradition, has been for more than 3,000 years the principal burial ground for the Jews of Jerusalem. Among its gravestones, many of them desecrated during the 19-year Jordanian occupation, lie many of the best-known figures of Israel's modern history.

From the time of King David until the War of Independence the special holiness of the mount, which appeared in the visions of the prophets Ezekiel and Zacharia, made it the chosen burial place for most of the city's Jews and for many who lived outside. Tradition says those buried on the mount will not need to roll under the earth to reach the site of resurrection. Jewish tradition also states the Messiah will cross the Mount of Olives to reach the Temple Mount.

Today, Jewish cemeteries cover most of the mount's surface, divided into four main cemeteries, plus a number of smaller burial plots belonging to particular ethnic groups.

The ancient Sephardi cemetery, where Jews from all of Jerusalem's ethnic communities were buried from the 14th century, became an exclusively Sephardi cemetery from 1856 onward. Virtually all the great figures of the oriental Jewish community up to the War of Independence are buried in this cemetery, including Rabbi Haim Ben Atar ("Or Hahayim"), and the Kabbalist Rabbi Shalom Sharabi.

The Cemetery of the General Hevra Kaddisha [burial society] was founded by the "Mitnagdim" stream of orthodox Judaism. From 1856 until the War of Independence the city's Ashkenazi Jews were buried here. Following the Six Day War Jewish burials began again in this section - Menachem and Aliza Begin are buried here.

Around 30 of the greatest Hassidic scholars of Jerusalem, including those of the Gur and Viznitz schools, are buried in the Hassidic cemetery, which is reserved exclusively for the Hassidic communities of the city.

The fourth cemetery, also founded by the General Hevra Kaddisha, was active between 1939 and 1948, and contains the graves of prominent Jewish figures from the period of the British mandate, including Pinhas Rutenberg, Yehiam Weitz, and S.Y Agnon.

Following the War of Independence the cemetery was used again, and many of Israel's most famous leaders and public figures are buried there, including Henrietta Szold, Rabbi Kook, and Zevulun Hammer.

The Mount of Olives also has smaller burial sites of some of the city's smaller communities, including Jews of North Africa, Grozny, Babylon, Yemen, Iran, and Afghanistan.

During the 19 year-year period of Jordanian control over east Jerusalem following the War of Independence, thousands of Jewish gravestones were desecrated, smashed, or taken as building materials to build Arab houses in east Jerusalem.

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Comment:Who Gets Sovereignty Over Jerusalem's Dead?
Publication:Israel Faxx
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Dec 28, 2000
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