The ongoing rock throwing by Arab thugs in East Jerusalem, including on the approaches to Har Hazeisim, was the subject of heated exchanges between Knesset members and high ranking police officials during a tour of Har Hazeisim last Thursday. The tour was organized by MK Miri Regev (Likud), Chair of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, at the request of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim (ICPHH), and included MKs Yisrael Eichler (Yahadus Hatorah), David Azulai (Shas), Motti Yogev (Bait Hayehudi) and Moshe Feiglin (Likud) as well as Mayor Nir Barkat and Jerusalem District Commander, Major General Yossi Parienti.
MK Regev, who is has been a leading voice for security on Har Hazeisim in particular and East Jerusalem in general, challenged police officials: “Where is the police presence and the deterrence? Why do Jews have to be attacked with rocks because of Protective Edge? Citizens of the state must be able to travel safely, everywhere. The police must accelerate the pace of arrests.” MK Eichler also lambasted the police for not devoting enough manpower to the security of Har Hazeisim. “You know very well that if you want to, you can create an atmosphere of deterrence and if there was a strong police presence, rocks will not be thrown.” MK Feiglin waved examples of tough laws in the US that mandate stiff sentences for vandals and thugs in cemeteries. “Why should we be any different than the State of Florida with its stiff mandatory jail sentence of 20 years for rock throwing while here a perpetrator gets a slap on the wrist which might be 3 months at most?” MK Feiglin asked Parienti: “Do you understand that we are facing the Jerusalem Intifada?”
Rock throwing has become commonplace in many areas of Jerusalem. Last week, Arab rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at a French Hill gas station, destroying the store located there and narrowly failing to set the gasoline tanks on fire. They damaged the fuel pumps and security cameras, stealing oil from the station and spilling it on the road leading to Issawiya before fleeing the scene. Arabs from the neighborhood of Issawiya, on Har Hatzofim carry out daily attacks on students studying at the adjacent Hebrew University campus and on Jews in general.
Parienti and police officials blamed a lack of manpower and such events as the murder of an Arab youth, Mohammed Abu Khder, and also because of the Ramadan month and Operation Protective Edge. But MK Regev retorted: “That is unacceptable that every time the Arabs are unhappy about something, Jews should be stoned.” Harvey Schwartz and Jeff Daube, leaders of the Israeli chapter of the ICPHH also pointed out that even arrested Arab youths were part of a revolving door, “again only reinforcing the lack of deterrence.” The tour and hearings that took place on Thursday was already postponed twice before, once during the disappearance of the ill fated youths and then again during Protective Edge.”
Avrohom Lubinsky, Chairman of the ICPHH, said that despite the recent violence in East Jerusalem, Har Hazeisim was largely spared from any major grave desecrations or rock throwing. He credited police officials on the mountain, headed by Captain Avraham Saar. He said that despite the police presence and the 137 surveillance cameras, “the approaches to Har Hazeisim remain a big problem which can only be addressed by additional cameras and a more robust police presence.”
Mr. Lubinsky thanked MK Regev “for taking the lead on the issue of security on Har Hazeisim.” Chairwoman Regev said that she would not rest until full security was restored to East Jerusalem. “I can promise you this– that I will not rest until Jews can walk all over East Jerusalem without fear during the day and night.”
The ICPHH has been working with the Israeli government and the Municipality of Jerusalem on a number of security and development initiatives. The Cabinet in July approved a budget of NIS 300 million over the next five years for security in East Jerusalem, including the opening of a new police station (Marchev Kedem), the hiring of 70 officers, and installation of new surveillance cameras. In addition, the Cabinet agreed to draft a new law with stiff sentence for rock throwing.
On the development front, many new projects are on the drawing board including a Visitor Center and shul on Har Hazeisim, a cable car and light rail as well as many improvements in the infra structure. The ICPHH will be participating with the government in funding many of these projects including the restoration of some 30,000 graves.