The ongoing security issues on Har Hazeisim and plans for the further development of the 3000-year-old cemetery will be the subject of this year’s annual breakfast meeting at 10 a.m. on Sunday May 6th at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Gerlenter, 1283 East 21st Street (between Avenues K & L). The breakfast is being hosted by Harav Moshe Tuvia Lieff Shlita, the Moroh D’Asroh of Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin, who has hosted these events since 2014. The event is to support the efforts of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim, chaired by Avrohom Lubinsky. His brother Menachem, a well-known askan and President of Lubicom will join Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, in co-hosting the event.
The guest speaker will be Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum Shlita, Moroh D’Asroh of Khal Nachlas Yitzchok in Queens. He is the author of many seforim on sugyos in Shas, Rambam – Hilchos Teshuva and the Haggadah. Rabbi Oelbaum is a maggid shiur on Dial-A-Daf and Dial-A-Shiur. In addition to Rabbi Oelbaum, many local rabbonim including members of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah are expected to attend the breakfast.
Rabbi Lieff urged the entire community to recognize the important mitzvah of securing “this mokom kodosh and assuring the menucha of all of the kedoshim and tehorim who are buried there.” Mr. Lubinskly added: “We dare not let our guard down for even one moment and risk a return to the national shame of abuse and neglect that we experienced prior to the formation of our committee.”
Har Hazeisim, which overlooks the Har Habayis, is the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the world, dating back over 3,000 years and is the resting place for over 150,000 Jews, including the foremost leaders of our nation dating back to the nevi’im. Despite being in Israeli hands, the cemetery remained largely neglected until May 2010 whenIsrael’s State Controller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a stinging report on the neglect and abuse of the mokom kodosh. He blamed successive Israeli governments for virtually neglecting the cemetery. This shocking report prompted Avrohom Lubinsky, a Brooklyn NY businessman, to create the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim.
The Committee has thus far managed to persuade the Israeli authorities to install 171 surveillance cameras in addition to a 24/7 Command Center. After extensive lobbying at the highest level of government, a police substation was finally established in March 2012. The police station has been a major deterrent to the criminal activity by Arab youths. In addition, a unit of the Border Patrol maintains a constant vigil and are now housed in a permanent structure, thanks to the courtesy of a benefactor. The Committee was also instrumental in the construction of a fence around the Eastern sector of the cemetery, an area that was the target of much violence in the past. Thanks to the efforts of the ICHH, there have been no destroyed graves in two years, security has vastly improved, and there was much improvement to the maintenance and cleanliness of the cemetery.
The biggest proof of the dramatic changes on Har Hazeisim is that the average daily number of visitors is now well over 2,000 when in 2015 it was under 200. But the ICHH is committed to assure the safety of visitors travelling through the access roads, to continuing to upgrade the infrastructure, restore some 35,000 graves, and build a Visitor Educational Center.