Brooklyn, NY – An overflow crowd of more than 600 people heard pleas from members of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah and other notables to secure the violence-plagued Har Hazeisim at a special Asifa on Sunday at the Agudah of Avenue L convened by the Internal Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim (ICPHH). Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, opened the Asifa by saying that “while many of us were skeptical five years ago when the effort first started that any changes could be made on the troubled Har Hazeisim, the Committee proved that through awareness and action much could be done.” Menachem Lubinsky, co-chairman of the ICPHH reminded the crowd of the Rambam’s distinct Halacha “of the kedusha of Har Hazeisim just like the mokom hamikdash.” He said that the Committee had made enormous progress in broadening the scope of support to Canada and Europe and for the first time in history the upgrade of security on Har Hazeisim was included in the recent coalition agreement.
Harav Aaron Feldman, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, called the responsibility of “kovod hameis something we must all share.” He too spoke of the kedusha of Har Hazeisim and the importance of respecting the luminaries over the ages who are buried there. Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva Gedolah of Philadelphia and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah also spoke of the “desecration of a place that has such enormous kedusha.” He added: “What a great zchus the people who are involved in this endeavor!”
Harav Tuvia Lieff, the Moroh D’Asrah of Agudah of Avenue L, reflected on the many members of his family who are buried there. “It is unfathomable that the Arabs should have destroyed more matzeivos (65,000) than the Nazis did in their 6-year march through Europe (14,000).” He thanked the Committee for alerting the world about the violence there and slowly bringing about change.
Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called the efforts of the ICPHH “game changing and life changing.” Mr. Hoenlein said that “securing Har Hazeisim must become a high priority of the new government. He reported that he had just returned from Israel and that he had raised the issue of Har Hazeisim with leading government officials. He added: “They (the Arabs) understand fully well that if they deny us our past, they deny us our future.” Harav Kaminetsky warmly praised Mr. Hoenlein for his role in securing Har Hazeisim.
In an emotional video presentation, the crowd saw images of the desecration on Har Hazeisim, including broken matzeivos, garbage, decaying dead donkeys, soccer matches and more. They heard from Mr. Yoel Harfenes, whose family came under attack while travelling on Har Hazeisim. But they also heard about some of the progress that has been made including the construction of a camera surveillance monitoring station, the installation of 142 surveillance cameras, the establishment of a police substation and repairs of the infrastructure. The committee, according to Chairman Avrohom Lubinsky, is pushing for the construction of a high security wall, additional cameras on access roads, the deployment of more police, the construction of a Visitor’s Center and shul and other projects to help develop Har Hazeisim.
In addition to Harav Feldman and Harav Kaminetsky, other members of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah who were present included Harav Aaron Schechter, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva and Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Harav Yosef Frankel, the Vyelipoler Rav. Many rabbonim from several communities were also present at what was an extremely inspiring morning in support of Har Hazeisim.