Knesset Interior Committee, Ministers, Promise New Day for Har Hazeisim on Tour of Historic Cemetery


har hazeisimThe security of Har Hazeisim rose to the top of the national agenda on Sunday as the Knesset Interior Committee and several government ministers toured Har Hazeisim in the presence of a cross section of the Israeli and foreign media. The tour was the result of a promise made by MK Dudu Amsalem, the chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee to the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim during a hearing in the Knesset in June, the very first hearing of the Committee convened by the new chairman. Standing on Har Hazeisim, MK Amsalem said: “If I was the commander here, I wouldn’t sleep at night. This is the honor of the Jewish nation that we are talking about. I am sick and tired of hearing that there are no budgets. I am embarrassed as a Jew and I will not rest until the situation is changed.”

Amsalem said that he was appointing a special security committee of the Knesset Interior Committee to monitor security on Har Hazeisim on a daily basis. ICPHH co-Chairmen Avrohom and Menachem Lubinsky praised MK Amsalem “for taking a leadership role in once and for all resolving the security problem on Har Hazeisim.”

In a major announcement during the tour, Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant announced a significant upgrade of security on Har Hazeisim, under a united command of the Police. He said that a new Deputy Commander for the Police would spend at least 50% of his time on East Yerushalayim issues, most notably on Har Hazeisim. Galant’s ministry is responsible for the private security force on Har Hazeisim that escorts visitors and mourners.  Minister of Yerushalayim Affairs Zev Elkin announced that his ministry would invest NIS 90 million into security for Har Hazeisim despite the fact that it is really not the jurisdiction of his Ministry.

Deputy Commander Avshalom Peled said that the police were unveiling a major security program for Har Hazeisim including the installation of an additional 160 high-tech surveillance cameras (142 are already in operation) over the next four years, a permanent police presence in the Afghanistan chelka (the scene of much desecration several months ago when 70 tombstones were burned and desecrated), an additional police station on Har Hazeisim (complimenting the one just beneath the Seven Arches Hotel), and a full battalion of border police that would supplement the additional police. He said that in 2014, police received 344 complaints, opened on average 37 files monthly, including 14 arrests and 6 indictments. In 2015, the police opened an average of 17 files a month, made 11 arrests, but most were released because they were minors. He said that a new tough law against rock throwing does not amply cover minors but that the police were putting a great deal of pressure on the parents.

Deputy Inspector Chaim Bablil announced that the police had solved another problem for visitors to Har Hazeisim. Previously, if an incident happened the police station on Har Hazeisim was not equipped to handle complaints and people had to travel to other police stations, in one notable case being bloodied and with shattered car windows.  He announced that henceforth a detective would be stationed in the police substation and would be authorized to handle complaints and investigations.

The sharpest comments of the day came from MK Uri Maklev (UTJ). “You asked for cameras and you got it, you asked for technology and you got it, you asked for more budgets and you got it. There are 6 or 7 ministries involved in the security of Har Hazeisim and after all that Har Hazeisim is still not secure. A chosson on the day of his wedding who came to daven here was injured. Yesomim begged that their parents should not be buried here. As long as people are afraid to come to Har Hazeisim, all this is for naught!”

Harvey Schwartz and Jeff Daube, leaders of the Israel chapter of the ICPHH who represented the organization on the tour, said: “American Jews fail to understand how Israel cannot resolve this issue once and for all.” MK Amsalem vowed to continue visiting Har Hazeisim until I am confident that the situation is under control.”

{ Israel News Bureau}