Zev Elkin, Israel’s Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage, told an impressive group of Jewish leaders on Tuesday morning that the security of Har Hazeisim remains a top priority for the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Speaking at a breakfast reception organized by the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim, the Minister said that the government had already spent upward of NIS 100 million for such security measures as a network of 137 surveillance cameras, the establishment of a police substation and other infra-structure projects, and was in the process of embarking on additional measures.
Minister Elkin said that a new wall would shortly be built, especially around the Eastern section of the cemetery, the scene of much vandalism in past years. He also said that the government was undertaking a major initiative to bring law and order to East Yerushalayim including the hiring of 1250 new officers and the construction of 5 new police stations in the surrounding Arab neighborhoods. Mr. Elkin thanked Avrohom and Menachem Lubinsky for “all that they have done for Har Hazeisim.” He added: “None of this would have been possible had you not pushed so hard.” He also said that the government was in the process of finalizing plans for a new Visitor’s Center and shul in collaboration with the ICPHH.
Minister Elkin was introduced by Malcolm Hoenlein, the Vice Chairman of the President’s Conference, which hosted the meeting in its Manhattan headquarters. Mr. Hoenlein has been a key figure in the efforts to secure the historic cemetery. He was followed by Danny Dayan, Israel’s new Consul General in New York, who revealed the many personal connections of his family to the 3000-year old cemetery. Menachem and Avrohom Lubinsky thanked the Minister and his “exceptional staff” headed by Sarit Goldstein and Rachel Gur who have been extremely helpful in securing Har Hazeisim. Menachem Lubinsky mentioned the renewed sense of security on the cemetery that is once again bringing thousands of visitors to Har Hazeisim including some 80,000 people who came for the yahrzeits of the Zhviller Rebbe, the Lev Simcha, and the Orach Chaim.
The initial remarks by the Minister and the Consul General were followed by a questions and answers session. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, recalled when Avrohom Lubinsky first knocked on his door more than six years ago to discuss what can only be described as “our national disgrace.” He thanked the Minister and the expanding ICPHH network worldwide for “turning this disgraceful situation around.”
The meeting with Minister Elkin follows an historic Cabinet Meeting in Yerushalayim on July 24th at which time the Ministers decided to ask the government to adopt Har Hazeisim as a “national priority. At that time, Gilad Erdan, the Minister for Internal Security revealed that some 1260 officers were being trained for duty in East Yerushalayim, many of which will be stationed on Har Hazeisim.