The Knesset will host a historic day of events in support of Har Hazeisim on December 5th, it was announced by MK Rabbi Yoav ben Zur at a meeting with leaders of the International Committee for Har Hazeisim (ICHH) on August 3rd. MK ben Zur, who is the head of the Shas faction in the Knesset, was named the head of the Knesset Caucus on Har Hazeisim by MK Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of the Israeli parliament. The event will be a historic display of unity on the uniqueness and kedusha of Har Hazeisim. Most of Israel’s political leadership as well as the Mayor of Yerushalayim are expected to attend.
Rabbi ben Zur noted that 65 members of Knesset from every political faction with the exception of the Arabs joined this caucus which he called “unprecedented and historic.” He added: “If anyone doubted that the success of the ICHH in securing Har Hazeisim is deeply ingrained in the national conscience of Jews of all stripes, this caucus and the planned event should serve as the best proof.” Rabbi ben Zur was introduced by Menachem Lubinsky, the co-chairman of the ICHH as “a key supporter of the efforts of our Committee to return Har Hazeisim to its rightful holy state of some 3000 years.” He added: “We are indeed fortunate to have such an activist MK as the head of the Knesset caucus to protect the international historic cemetery of the Jewish people.”
The ICHH reception for Rabbi ben Zur was hosted in the Manhattan offices of Ira Ganger, a key ICHH Executive Committee member. Rabbi ben Zur noted that a record 100,000 Jews recently came to Har Hazeisim for the yahrzeit of the saintly Ohr Hachaim. In addition, he pointed out that the number of reported incidents on the approaches to Har Hazeisim had plummeted from 373 in 2015 to just 17 in the past 12 months.
As a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Rabbi benZur also gave an off the record briefing of the security situation in Israel. He also discussed some of the religious issues facing his faction as part of the Orthodox representation in the Knesset.
Founded in 2010, the International Committee for Har Hazeisim consists of organizations and activists in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Amsterdam and Yerushalayim. The ICHH is credited with dramatically changing the security situation of Har Hazeisim with a network of 173 surveillance cameras, a police station, the stationing of a Border Police unit, and most recently new fencing and gating. The ICHH recently began restoring graves destroyed during the Jordanian occupation (1948-1967). It is also partnering with the Israeli government in building a Visitor Education Center. The number of average daily visitors to Har Hazeisim has risen from less than 200 a day in 2015 to more than 2000 today.