Malcolm Hoenlein and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
Yerushalayim…More than half of Israel’s Knesset, representing every political faction, except for the Arab list, has now joined a caucus on the security and development of Har Hazeisim. Of the many Knesset caucus groups on a broad range of issues of concern to the public, the Har Hazeisim caucus is by far the largest and most diverse. The caucus was launched by MK Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of the Knesset, at a meeting of the leadership of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim (ICPHH) that included its founding chairman Avrohom Lubinsky and Malcolm Hoenlein, the Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. MK Edelstein appointed MK Rabbi Yoav ben Zur, as the head of the caucus.
In an historic show of support for the 3000-year old cemetery where some 150,000 Jews are buried, the 65 Knesset members that included every political party sent a strong message that Har Hazeisim is as coveted as the Kosel and Har Habayis. The creation of a caucus – “shdulah” – is a powerful national resolve to unite behind the holiness and importance of the historic mountain. The caucus includes such notable names as opposition leader Yitzchak “Buzzi” Herzog and Minister Yair Lapid.
A spokesman for the Speaker said that the caucus will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the security needs of the cemetery as well as other development plans. “This is a great accomplishment for the ICPHH as it continues to improve the security of Har Hazeisim,” said Mr. Lubinsky. “The creation of the caucus means that a majority of the Knesset will support ongoing security needs as well as many planned projects for the mountain.” Thousands of Jews are now routinely visiting Har Hazeisim after years of being subjected to violence and vandalism.
Har Hazeisim is the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the world, dating back over 3,000 years and is the resting place for over 150,000 Jews. Despite being in Israeli hands, the cemetery remained largely neglected until May 2010 when Israel’s State Controller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a stinging report on the neglect and abuse of one of Judaism’s holiest sites. This shocking report prompted Avrohom Lubinsky, a Brooklyn NY businessman, to create the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim, which now has chapters in New York, Los Angles, Jerusalem, Toronto, London and Amsterdam. Since then, Har Hazeisim has once again become secure, encouraging tens of thousands of people to visit. The Committee is planning to build a Visitor Educational Center, restore some 23,000 graves, and continue its efforts to upgrade security, improve maintenance, and embark on other infra -structure projects.