“Har Hazeisim is not an Israeli issue; nor is it an American, Canadian or British issue – it belongs to every Jew, to klal Yisroel,” was the message delivered by Rabbi Menachem Lubinsky, co-chairman of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim (ICPHH) at a meeting convened here by Benny and Rachelle Brenig at their home. The group of askanim who participated in the meeting resolved to establish a British chapter of the international effort to stem the violence on the 3000-year cemetery and to restore the ancient holy cemetery. Rabbi Lubinsky said that the Rambam emphatically notes that because of its proximity to the Har Habayis, Har Hazeisim has the same kedusha as the Har Habayis.” The Rambam in Beis Habchira adds that the kedusha is” from everywhere that you can see the makom hamikdash…and from atop Har Hazeisim.” The co-chairman of the ICPHH added: “This national treasure with its 150,000 neshomos must be protected and preserved. In a follow-up Power Point presentation, Jeff Daube, a leader of the Israeli chapter of the ICPHH, vividly illustrated the ongoing abuse and desecration despite the vast improvements that have been made since the ICPHH was founded in May 2010. He said that the 150,000 neshomos who are buried there are preventing a complete takeover by the Arabs of the whole of Eastern Yerushalayim.
The delegation which included Rabbi Lubinsky, Mr. Daube and Rabbi Johnathan Sigal, who heads the European office of the ICPHH, also met with various rabbonim and lay leaders. They included Dayan Chanoch Ehrentrau, Dayan Y.Y. Lichtenstein, Rosh Beis Din of the Federation of Synagogues, Dayan M.D. Elzaz, a member of the FOS Bais Din, Rabbi Alan Kimche, Rav of the Ner Israel Synagogue in Northeast London, Rabbi Yosef David, Rav of the Od Yosef Chai Synagogue, Dayan Yonasan Abraham, London Bias Din and Rav of the Toras Chaim Community, and Rabbi Dov Kaplan, Rav of the Hampstead Gardens Synagogue. The rabbonim promised to rally the other rabbonim in the UK to raise the consciousness of their baalei habatim about the urgency of “retaking Har Hazeisim.”
The ICPHH leaders reported that despite reports of periodic violence, the cemetery itself has been relatively safe from vandalism due to an increased presence of the police as well as a unit of the Border Police. A major initiative of the ICPHH is to build a wall, initially around the oft-vandalized Eastern sector of the cemetery and eventually to expand it to the entire cemetery. They said that discussions were ongoing with police officials to further increase the presence of police, particularly on access roads. The ICPHH was hoping that prosecutors would soon indict rock throwers and that judges would impose stiff jail sentences in the aftermath of the new tough law that imposes jail for up to 20 years for throwing a rock at a moving vehicle. The leaders were also hoping to close a major gap in the law, which is the prosecution of minors who are most often the perpetrators of the rock throwing.
The ICPHH leaders thanked Jews in Britain for their support and were grateful that such an important Jewish community had joined the worldwide effort. According to Chevra Kadisha leaders, there are as many as 9,000 British Jews buried on Har Hazeisim.