Jeff Seidel is a well-known American community activist with an impressive record on kiruv projects. Last Tuesday, as he, Yochanan Danziger, and another passenger were on the way to a levayah for the wife of a friend, they were nearly killed as their car was pelted with cinder blocks. The attack came less than a week after Moshe (Chico) Edri, Yerushalayim’s new police chief, toured Har HaZeitim with Avrohom Lubinsky, chairman of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har HaZeitim (ICPHH), and MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (UTJ). He promised a new era of policing on Har HaZeitim, including more police and increased numbers of arrests.
The ambush, like dozens in the past several years, occurred on a narrow road leading from the top of Har HaZeitim on the Ator Road where a car blocked traffic from moving so that Arab youths could pummel the car with rocks and cinder blocks. It came at a time when thousands of Arab school children were being dismissed from the school on top of Har HaZeitim, a school that “has constantly been on our agenda and will eventually be dealt with,” according to Mr. Lubinsky. “We managed to get the police to deploy there, especially during dismissal time when most of the rock-throwing takes place, but the police often leave their posts to respond to other calls and when they do, any Jewish motorist or pedestrian becomes fair game,” said Mr. Lubinsky, which is precisely what happened to Seidel and his passengers.
Seidel was driving his 2006 Mazda when all the windows, with the exception of the windshield, were completely shattered. “It was a miracle that we got out alive,” said Danziger. At one point, Seidel tried to turn into the locked parking lot of an Arab hospital, which would have given them a safe haven, but they were refused entry. Seidel managed to continue driving slowly as Danziger and the other passenger crouched on the floor. He managed to make a U-turn as older Arabs, who Danziger said were in their 40s, yelled at the youths to move away. Seidel managed to drive his car to the police station, where he said the police were very understanding and said that the attackers “would pay a heavy price.”
Aware that the levayah would take place precisely during the school’s dismissal, Jeff Daube, one of the leaders of the Israel chapter of the ICPHH, alerted police. The police deployed on the lower part of Har HaZeitim. Avraham Saar, the police commander of the Har HaZeitim police substation, said that after he got the ‘heads up’ they contacted the family and were told when the levayah was coming to Har HaZeitim. The police told them to come via Gat Shamna below. While all the cars approached via that road, two did not–one of which was that of Jeff Seidel, and the other car, with two unarmed soldiers, was also pelted.
Said Mr. Daube: “This is the national cemetery of the Jewish people and it is unconscionable that three Jews could not go to a levayah because they came from a different road. The police should have been there as well.” Saar argues that he does not have enough manpower, a fact that Lubinsky hopes to change. “We can no longer accept this on-again, off-again policing that almost got three Jews killed.”
ICPHH leaders are hoping that some of the surveillance cameras in the area will help police identify and arrest some of the perpetrators as well as the driver of the car that purposely blocked the Seidel car from proceeding. During his visit to Har HaZeitim, Jerusalem Commander Edri promised stepped-up arrests of all who are responsible for grave desecrations and rock-throwing. The police are said to have made more than 300 arrests in the past three weeks, effectively ending the daily Palestinian riots. The arrests included 13 Arabs responsible for the desecration of more than 40 graves in the Ger Chelka during Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos. Mr. Daube said that the committee was following these cases to assure that there is no “revolving-door justice” when it comes to rock-throwers and the desecrators of graves.
“While we proceed on many fronts to increase the security and development of Har HaZeitim, we will not rest until there is a robust police deployment on Har HaZeitim,” said Mr. Lubinsky. He said that the Seidel incident should be a wakeup call to all that the Arabs are out for blood, but despite their evil intentions, we will prevail and secure Har HaZeitim.