“This holy site will be protected at all costs,” vowed Yoav Galant, the Minister of Housing and Construction, during a high-level tour of Har Hazeisim on July 12th, arranged by the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim. He added: “Jews have been buried here for 3,000 years; we have a historic feeling for this place, and we must keep it safe.” Yerushalayim’s Deputy Mayor Yosef Deutsch pointed to the throngs who turned out for the Ohr Hachaim’s yahrzeit three days earlier as the best proof of the “revolutionary change” in security and that is due to the Lubinsky brothers who seven years ago began the effort to deal with this national shame.”
Also participating in the tour was MK Yoav ben Zur (head of Shas), appointed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to head a Knesset Caucus on Har Hazeisim. Despite the existence of dozens of caucuses, none reached the historic number of MK’s (66) from every political party except for the Arab list. Leading the ICPHH delegation was Menachem Lubinsky, the co-chairman of the international committee and Malcolm Hoenlein, the Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Ch.-Supt. Nisso Guetta, and Insp. Moshe Fritzi, senior police officials responsible for security in the area, said that peace and quiet is the new norm on Har Hazeisim. Said Supt. Guetta: “In 2015, we had 330 reported incidents in the vicinity of Har Hazeisim, including the approaches to the mountain; so far in 2017 just a handful. There has been no known desecration of graves in almost two years. Mr. Lubinsky thanked the security forces for “finally making Har Hazeisim accessible to Jews from all over the world.” He also pointed to the new walls and gates, the fact that Har Hazeisim is now ringed by 173 cameras, and the success of many innovative security measures.” Mr. Hoenlein thanked MK Ben Zur and Minister Galant, whose ministry is directly responsible for security for the historic cemetery. “I will carry the message back to the US that Har Hazeisim is safe, secure, and accessible.”
While in Israel, Messrs. Hoenlein and Lubinsky also had a number of high level meetings on security and development on Har Hazeisim, including Nir Barkat, the mayor of Yerushalayim, Zev Elkin, Minister of Yerushalayim Affairs, Ayelet Shaked, Justice Minister and a number of Knesset members from various factions.
The new security on Har Hazeisim has brought tens of thousands of Jews back to the mountain, many who had not visited the graves of loved ones for years. The record crowds that came to mark the yahrzeit of the saintly Ohr Hachaim showed just how much has changed. Jews began to stream to Har Hazeisim on Motzoei Shabbos (July 8th) and it continued through the night until well into the night on Sunday. Hundreds of busses came from throughout the country. Large throngs also came to mark the recent yahrzeit of the Lev Simcha, the Gerer Rebbe, led by the current Rebbe.
Lubinsky said that in 2014, the average number of daily visitors to Har Hazeisim was somewhere between 175-200. Nowadays, nearly 2,000 and mostly people who come regularly to mark yahrzeits or to be mispallel at the many kevraim of Torah luminaries throughout the ages who are buried there.