The Cohen family of France was in Israel for the visit of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who visited Har Hazeisim to pay homage to his great grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. The connection between the Cohens and the Royal Princess goes back to World War II in Athens when the Princess hid the Cohens during the Nazi occupation of Greece and thus saved them from deportation and certain death. The Princess not only hid the grandparents of Evie Cohen but saw to their every need. Princess Alice used her deafness to deter the Nazis from searching her quarters for the location of the Cohens.
Princess Alice, the mother of Prince Phillip and the mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth, ultimately returned to Buckingham Palace after being estranged from the Royal Family and left a will to be buried in a small Christian section of Har Hazeisim. Both Prince Philip and Prince Charles made “unofficial” visits to the gravesite on Har Hazeisim as the British government does not recognize Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital. Prince Charles visited the gravesite while attending the funeral of Shimon Peres.
Following his visit to the burial site of his great grandmother, the Prince stood on one of the observatory peaks overlooking the sprawling Jewish cemetery with its 150,000 graves over 3,000 years. Jeff Daube, a co-chairman of the Israel section of the International Committee for Har Hazeisim (ICVHH) said: “We hope that the Duke of Cambridge saw unequivocally that there is no question as to the holiness and historic Jewish past of the cemetery.”
Following the Prince’s visit, the ICHH as well as representatives of the Jerusalem Foundation led a tour of Har Hazeisim for Mrs. Cohen. “While we continue to focus on security, we cannot ignore attempts at revisionism that denies the historical Jewish connection to Har Hazeisim,” an ICHH statement said earlier this week. “As the historic international cemetery of the Jewish people, tens of thousands of Jews from around the world have a strong connection to the holy site as their relatives and spiritual leaders are buried there.” Since being founded in 2010, the ICHH has been responsible for the installation of a network of surveillance cameras, a police substation, major upgrades in infrastructure, new gating and fencing and a permanent presence of the Border Police. These measures have restored security to Har Hazeisim and more than 2500 people visit each day, a far cry from the 250 that came only a year ago. Despite being 3000 years old, an estimated 400 burials still take place on Har Hazeisim each year.
This past week, tens of thousands flocked to the kever of the saintly Or Hachaim, whose yahrzeit was this week. It is estimated that more than 500,000 Jews a year visited the kever of the tzaddik.