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Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich   Letter 06   29-Sep-1997   Desecration of Jewish Cemeteries
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich
"Thus hundreds of Muslim cemeteries have been utterly destroyed in Israel (in one case in order to make room for the Tel-Aviv Hilton) but there was a great outcry because the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was damaged under Jordanian rule." Israel Shahak


September 29, 1997

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich
29 Shchekavytska Street
Kiev 254071
Ukraine


Dear Rabbi Bleich:

You have called upon the Ukrainian government to prevent the desecration of Jewish cemeteries:

One of the problems we consider a "Jewish problem" is the desecration of cemeteries.  ...  Well, Mr. Yemets told me that, as long as the price of a stone will be greater than the value of two months salary, it's going to be very hard to keep a policeman near every grave marker to prevent people from stealing them.  (Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, The Ukrainian Weekly, November 13, 1994, p. 3)

You must be aware, rabbi Bleich, that Ukraine at the moment is desperately poor, and that although the stealing of grave stones is clearly a crime worth preventing, the Ukrainian police are at the same time faced with an eruption of murders, kidnapings, and robberies which vies for its attention.

However, there is one elaboration of your call to offer special protection to Jewish cemeteries that you could make which in my estimation would render that call more appealing and more likely to be heard with sympathy.  That elaboration would be your statement demonstrating that you were not merely asking for a protection for your own people, but that you sought the same protection impartially for all people, and even from your own people.

Thus, in your proposal, you might first acknowledge that:

Pious Jews have a tremendous magic reverence towards Jewish corpses and Jewish cemeteries, but have no respect towards non-Jewish corpses and cemeteries.  Thus hundreds of Muslim cemeteries have been utterly destroyed in Israel (in one case in order to make room for the Tel-Aviv Hilton) but there was a great outcry because the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was damaged under Jordanian rule.  (Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, London and Boulder Colorado, 1994, pp. 37-38)

And having made the above acknowledgment, you might then follow up by calling upon the Israeli government to offer protection to Muslim cemeteries within Israel.

In other words, if your call to the Ukrainian government were seen as part of a call to all governments to prevent the desecration of all cemeteries, then it might be viewed with more sympathy than if it is seen as a call to the Ukrainian government only to enforce measures from which you exempted the Israeli government.

And perhaps also you might gain particular sympathy if you were to show such great objectivity and impartiality as to point out that the Ukrainian case is one of a partial desecration of some Jewish cemeteries by individuals for economic reasons, whereas the Israeli case is one of a total obliteration of most Muslim cemeteries by the Israeli government for political reasons.


Yours truly,


Lubomyr Prytulak



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