“Two recent attacks against visitors to Har Hazeisim breaking many months of quiet are extremely disturbing,” Abe Lubinsky, Chairman of the International Committee on Har Hazeisim said. “While we greatly appreciate the efforts of the security forces over the last two years to end the vandalism on the 3000-year old cemetery, we cannot condone the recent attacks, which included the stoning of a school bus of seventh graders.”
The bus with the school girls was attacked last Thursday night as they were returning from a visit to Har Hazeisim. The many changes that have taken place in the cemetery including the deployment of police and Border police, the installation of cameras and the building of a fence have brought back thousands of visitors, as many as 2000 a day, according to police sources. Mr. Lubinsky pointed out that the Committee has been working with police officials to safeguard the approaches, particularly the A-Tor and Ras al Amud access points. Thankfully, none of the girls was injured but a shattered windshield disabled the bus in the midst of a huge traffic jam. Lubinsky further noted that the presence of several Border policemen in the area did not seem to deter the hoodlums, pointing to the fact that these youths must be prosecuted and given long jail sentences. He also asked for additional units to bolster the security in the area.
Lubinsky said that while 173 surveillance cameras are mounted throughout the cemetery, more cameras are needed on the approach roads. He also said that while the cemetery itself is secure, more police need to be deployed on the crowded approaches. “We will not rest until all violence is totally eradicated from the approaches to Har Hazeisim despite the general calm,” he said.
Officials of the ICHH plan to hold a series of meetings in the coming weeks with police and municipal officials to deal with any “cracks” in the security of the holy cemetery. Police officials have in recent months made numerous arrests and have undertaken other measures to head off any violence but the recent incidents shows that much still needs to be done. “In general, Har Hazeisim is safe but we must deal with these isolated incidents,” Lubinsky concluded.
The ICHH was founded in 2010 to deal with the deteriorating situation on Har Hazeisim. Working with members of Knesset, the Municipality and the Netanyahu administration, much has been done to upgrade the security and state of the cemetery. It is in the process of restoring many of the destroyed graves from the Jordanian era as well as constructing a Visitor’s Center. In a recent historic development, 65 members from ever political party except for the Arab list have signed onto a Knesset Caucus on Har Hazeisim which will officially be launched at a ceremony on December 5th with the participation of senior government officials. The Caucus, the largest ever in the history of the Knesset, was established by Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of the Knesset, who named Rabbi Yoav ben Zur, chairman of the Shas faction in the Knesset, as its chairman.