An impressive cross-section of activists gathered on November 20 at the luxurious Fireside restaurant to support the efforts of the International Committee for Har HaZeisim (ICHH) to secure Har HaZeisim. Guest speaker Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, “The efforts of Arab extremists and UNESCO to revise Jewish history are best fought by our efforts to preserve the past and an important guide for our future.” He added: “150,000 Jews who are buried there, from the Nevi’im to our most recent national and rabbinic leaders, are voiceless and depend on us to secure and protect this 3,000-year-old holy cemetery.” Hoenlein also praised Menachem and Avrohom Lubinsky for “their ten-year initiative to successfully reverse the national shame that existed on the holy mountain.”
Hoenlein was introduced by Menachem Lubinsky, co-chairman of the ICHH, who spoke of the increased security on Har HaZeisim which “has substantially increased the number of daily visitors, a far cry from several years ago when people feared to visit their loved ones and gedolei h’ador.” He cited such improvements as the 200 surveillance cameras, gating throughout the cemetery, the establishment of a police station, deployment of a border patrol unit, regular sanitation services, and more. He also pointed out that in the previous Knesset, 72 members joined a caucus on Har HaZeisim, the largest ever in the history of the Israel’s Knesset. He also informed the gathering of the ICHH’s partnership with the government to build a magnificent Visitor Educational Center, which is scheduled to be constructed in 2020.
The ICHH was founded nearly a decade ago after a devastating report by the late State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on the dismal state of Har Hazeisim, including rampant destruction of matzeivos, tombstones being used as goalposts for soccer matches by local youths, being the center of the Arab drug trade, and dead donkeys on graves — a scenario Jewish leaders called a “national disgrace.” In addition, visitors and mourners were routinely stoned — limiting the number of visitors. Thanks to the ICHH, the dismal situation was reversed and the cemetery is secure.
“It isn’t just the cemetery we are talking about, but preserving one of the holiest sites for Jews; the mountain where the ashes of the parah adumah was burned, the new month was proclaimed, the kohanim prepared for the avodah across the road in the Beis HaMikdash, and the ultimate site where Mashiach will first arrive,” Lubinsky said.
The host committee of the successful event consisted of Yossi Brachfeld, Shraga Faskowitz, Yochi Herzog, Ben Philipson, Yossi Kazarnovsky, and Abe Mordowitz. Madison Title was a major sponsor of the event. The Fireside culinary team prepared a lavish and special meal. The magnificent selection of wines was donated by Kedem/Royal Wines.