Monday, July 28, 2003

The Mount of Olives

A few years ago, the mother of a friend at work passed away following a prolonged illness. The funeral was on the Mount of Olives, although she had lived in Rishon Letzion. Apparently, although very ill, my friend's mother had schlepped up to Jerusalem and bought herself a plot. It had been very expensive and she had not been very well off, but it had been very important for her, as it has been for so many Jews down the ages, that she be buried overlooking Jerusalem, ready for the resurrection.

I understand that these days it's mainly Bukharan Jews who feel this way and are prepared to pay the price (that is besides extremely wealthy Jews from the Diaspora). My mother-in-law says she has many relations buried there, Jerusalemites from the Bukharan quarter. You won't be able to find any of their graves, though, because the ancient cemetery was completely ransacked during the Jordanian rule of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967. After the Six Day War, gravestones from the cemetery were apparently discovered being used as bricks in the walls of houses. I read somewhere that they were found as far away as Hebron.

The cemetery is built on the slope facing the old city. We had to travel through East Jerusalem's car repair shops to get to it. And it was terribly rundown. There was this strange uneasy silence and an eerie feeling of desolation. We had to scale the mountain to get to the plot. It was probably the most surreal funeral I have ever been to, and I've been to a few.

Shortly after the funeral, the Terror War commenced. I hear my friend has never been to visit her mother's grave. For one thing, she spent the next year and a half nursing her sick father. But mainly, she has not felt it safe enough to go, although Jerusalemites may disagree.

Apparently the local Arabs have been desecrating the graves again. I hope they've left the grave of my friend's mother alone.