Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered Israel’s police to add 400 officers to Yerushalayim, a significant number that will be deployed in the Old City and on or near Har Hazeisim. The prime minister attended a special meeting on Sunday on the precarious security situation in the city, with, among others, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat, ISA Director Yoram Cohen, Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and his deputy Nissim Mor, Yerushalayim District Police Commander Moshe Edri, and Deputy Attorney General Raz Nazeri.
The meeting came less than a week after kiruv activist Jeff Seidel, Yochanan Danziger and another passenger were nearly killed as their car was pelted with cinder blocks on the way to the levayah of the wife of a friend on Har Hazeisim. Yerushalayim’s new police chief, Moshe Edri, raised the issue of the security situation on and near Har Hazeisim at the meeting.
He had earlier toured Har Hazeisim with Avrohom Lubinsky, chairman of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim (ICPHH), and MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (UTJ). The high-level meeting decided to give Edri the necessary manpower to beef up security in the area.
The ambush of Seidel and his group, like dozens in the past several years, occurred on a narrow road leading from the top of Har Hazeisim on the Ator Road when 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 Hazeisim, 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. This is precisely what happened to Seidel and his passengers.
At the discussion, the prime minister approved a plan formulated by Public Security Minister Aharonovich and Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino regarding a permanent increase of forces in the city. At this stage, it has been decided to add approximately 400 officers and to emply additional technological methods in the area. Unlike previous deployments, the prime minister said that these new forces would be permanent, a fact that was warmly greeted by Mr. Lubinsky.
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, one of two other passengers in the car. 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 succeeded in making 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, in fact, deployed on the lower part of Har Hazeisim. Avraham Saar, the police commander of the Har Hazeisim police sub-station, said that after he got the heads-up, they contacted the family and told them to come via Gat Shamna below. Not everyone got the message, however. Most of the cars carrying people to the levayah approached via that road, but two did not. One was that of Jeff Seidel, while the other was a car with two unarmed soldiers whose car was also attacked.
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 will change.
“We can no longer accept this on-again off-again policing that almost got three Jews killed.”
ICPHH leaders are hoping that 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 Hazeisim, Yerushalayim 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 desecrators of graves.
“While we proceed on many fronts to increase the security and development of Har Hazeisim, we will not rest until there is a robust police deployment on Har Hazeisim,” said Mr. Lubinsky. He said that the Seidel incident should be a wake-up call to all that the Arabs are out for blood, but despite their evil intentions, “we will prevail and secure Har Hazeisim,” he said.