The ongoing security issues on Har HaZeitim and plans for the further development of the 3,000-year-old cemetery will be the subject of two events in the Five Towns on May 17–18 sponsored by the International Committee for the Preservation of Har HaZeitim. Charlie Miller, a member of the committee, is the organizer of the events in the Five Towns.
Menachem Lubinsky, a founding co-chairman of the committee, will serve as the scholar-in-residence at the Young Israel of Woodmere this Shabbos, May 17. And on Sunday morning, at 10 a.m., Ambassador Ido Aharoni will be the keynote speaker at a rally for Har HaZeitim at the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst (8 Spruce Street). In addition, Mr. Lubinsky will present an overview of the current status of the 3,000-year-old cemetery and holy site. Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, mara d’asra of Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin in Brooklyn, and Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, rabbi of the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst, will also address the gathering. A special video presentation about Har HaZeitim will also be shown.
Malcolm Hoenlein, CEO and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a founding member of the ICPHH, said: “Har HaZeitim is essential to keeping Yerushalayim united. Arab expansionism is increasingly threatening to divide Yerushalayim. Ensuring that Har HaZeitim is accessible and secure stands in the way of those plans to isolate parts of Yerushalayim, including our sacred sites. We must preserve Jewish sovereignty over Har HaZeitim and see to its security so that every Jew can visit safely and securely.”
Har HaZeitim is the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the world, dating back over 3,000 years, and is the resting place for over 150,000 people, dating back to the nevi’im. Despite being in Israeli hands, the cemetery remained largely neglected until May 2010, when Israel’s State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, issued a stinging report on the neglect and abuse of Israel’s second-holiest site. He blamed successive Israeli governments for virtually neglecting the cemetery. This shocking report prompted Abe Lubinsky, a Brooklyn businessman, to create the International Committee for the Preservation of Har HaZeitim.
The committee has thus far managed to persuade the Israeli authorities to install 142 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 further deterrent to criminal activity by Arab youths. The committee continues to lobby the government to increase the police detail on Har HaZeitim to better protect the access roads and the people living in the nearby Jewish housing, including Maale HaZeitim.
To deny Arab vandals easy access to graves and mourners, a series of new fences was installed as part of a broader plan to secure some of the individual sections of Har HaZeitim. For the first time, the municipality of Jerusalem conducts regular sanitation services on the mountain. Previously, Har HaZeitim was the local Arabs’ dumping ground for garbage and discarded construction material, making parts of the mountain look like a junkyard.
Despite these accomplishments, graves continue to be destroyed and mourners and visitors routinely stoned. The committee has stepped up its efforts for full security for the ancient cemetery, where regular burials continue to this day. In addition, it is continuing its efforts for many new projects to increase security and assert Jewish sovereignty. v