Wednesday, October 29, 2014

29-Oct-14: Truths about Jerusalem and its Jews - and the stones that tell them

We snapped this on the Mount of Olives
We buried a dear friend yesterday.

An outstanding professor of law, a brilliant legal mind, an energetic and effective advocate for human rights, a man of sincere piety, gentle ways, modesty and huge achievements, a child of parents who survived the Holocaust, and a cherished friend for decades, his untimely passing in the United States was a tremendous shock.

He was a gentleman who knew better than most how to arrange his affairs, and had purchased (as we learned just two days ago) a burial plot in the ancient cemetery that spills down the slopes of Jerusalem's Mount of Olives.

Family and friends accompanied his coffin on its journey from a Connecticut hospital to New York to Israel. Then, after the briefest of ceremonies on Tuesday in Jerusalem (because our friend had stipulated that there were to be no eulogies, and this was respected - to everyone's loss), several groups of us drove through the eastern part of our nation's capital city and then along the increasingly tense roads that lead up to Har Hazeitim, the Mount of Olives.

Did we say ancient? We meant it. Jews - including some of the most influential figures in the history of Jewish scholarship - have been buried there since time immemorial. In Wikipedia's words, it "has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years". Have you been to any other location on the face of the earth that has served one task, one people, for three millennia? And as we can testify, it is in active use today.

In fact, it has been in use down through all the ages except for the very black period when it fell into the control of the Arab Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between 1948 when their British-led military over-ran it during Israel's War of Independence, and 1967 when they were defeated and uprooted by the Israelis.

In the course of those nightmarish 19 years, Jordan carried out a process of massive vandalism, desecration and destruction of this inexpressibly special site including the deliberate uprooting of ancient, historically invaluable tombstones. These they "used as paving stones for the new hotel and for Jordanian army camps". In a formal sense, this was a breach of legal obligations, since "the framework of the 3 April 1949 Armistice Agreements [required Jordan] to allow "free access to the holy sites and cultural institutions and use of the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives" [Wikipedia]. This was, of course, never even remotely observed. Respect for other people's sacred traditions became a reality in Jerusalem only when Israel took control after the Six Day War.

The photograph above is a reminder of something else for which Jerusalem and its Mount of Olives stand. We snapped it yesterday. It shows the fresh grave, dug just a day earlier, of a young woman from Ecuador whose passion for being part of the Jewish people brought her to Jerusalem, and to an embrace of Jewish tradition and peoplehood that ended when a Palestinian Arab terrorist equipped with a speeding vehicle mowed down a crowd standing at a Jerusalem tram stop. We wrote about it here: "27-Oct-14: Another quiet, decent life whose tragic end fails to merit news reporting".

October 27, 2014: Funeral service for the young woman,
an Ecuadorian victim of terror,
who embraced Judaism [Image Source]
Her name is Karen Yemima Mosquera (the memorial service in Jerusalem is the subject of the photo over there to the right), and the world from which she and her forebears came is different in almost every respect from the one in which we were raised and with which we are familiar.

Notwithstanding those profound differences, for as long as there continues to be a Jewish cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives, the young woman's place of eternal rest will be just two or three meters away from the grave of our dear friend.

Hers is in the foreground of the photo below, just stones and dirt and a simple marker for now until a tombstone is prepared; his, seconds after the interment and made of the same simple materials, is in the background.

We wrote yesterday that her mother, speaking to Ha'aretz from the Jerusalem hospital while the struggle to save her daughter's life was still going on, said: "People always say things against Israel in the news, but when you come here you see the truth." Karen's life, and the deplorable news-reporting of her murder-by-terrorism at the hands of a Hamas agent, underscore the reality of her mother's insights.
Mount of Olives, Tuesday: Our friend's grave at the back; the young woman's
in the foreground

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