Rabbi Deitsch at the cemetery
Many pilgrims visit the section of the cemetery in Haditsch, Ukraine, for prayer by the tomb of the Baal HaTanya. Very sadly, however, there are hundreds of Jewish graves scattered throughout the cemetery surrounding the tomb. The entire area is open and violated by local residents who feel free to do as they will.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman Deitsch has invested much money and energy to develop the cemetery as fit for visitors. He began by cleaning up the cemetery and mapping it, while also partially fencing it in to prevent further vandalism.
He says, "There are over a thousand graves dating back hundreds of years, which were desecrated and in terrible neglect over the years. Six years ago, when I began the project, I was horrified. I learned that the local residents used to come here for picnics and barbecues, as if this was a public park.
"At the first stage, when we began clearing the area, we found dozens of graves belonging to prominent and holy members of our community alongside noted gedolei Torah. Our first step was to enclose the cemetery to let the residents know that this was sacred territory."
Rabbi Deitsch relates, "Fencing in the cemetery required 800 meters of material. Assisting us was the World Association for the Preservation and Fencing In of Cemeteries in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the ESJF' and the founder and president of the Association, Rabbi Yitzchok Shapira, who rallied to the supreme effort so as to preserve the cemetery as a whole, and the burial site of the Baal HaTanya in particular. The efforts were coupled with the administration of the Housing Project established there to provide accommodations for the many visitors arriving at the grave site. This project is expected to be completed very shortly."
It may be complete by now.