Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Shevat 5768 - January 31, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Knesset Committee Discusses State of Har Hazeisim

By Eliezer Rauchberger

"During the course of renovation work at Har Hazeisim, which the Sephardic chevra kadisha, with state funding, has been working on for a long time, recently a large burial plot, which includes a number of well-known rabbonim, has been uncovered," Religious Services Minister MK Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) told a Knesset plenum in response to an urgent question raised by MK Nissim Ze'ev. "The plot was covered over by infrastructure work during the period of Jordanian rule in [East] Jerusalem."

Minister Cohen said, "The renovation work was part of a series of activities the government is carrying out through the Authority for the Development of Jerusalem and the Company for the Development of East Jerusalem. These activities include gravesite renovation, security, cleanup and the documentation and information project, as well as public transportation. All told the activities being carried out will bring a very big change in the public's attitude toward and access to the Mount of Olives."

Minister Cohen also said the government allocated a total of NIS 50 million ($14 million) in every fiscal year from 2006 to 2013 for the renovation, development and maintenance of the Old City Basin and the Mount of Olives. He said the government is meeting this commitment so far, except for the across-the-board budget cuts.

MK Nissim Ze'ev claims Jews attending funerals at the Mount of Olives feel unsafe and the security situation there is still poor and inadequate.

Cohen replied that NIS 18 million ($5 million) has now been earmarked for security at the cemetery and a tender will be issued next month. He expressed hope that safety will be significantly improved.

The state of Har Hazeisim was also raised for discussion during a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee as part of legislation proposed by MK Aryeh Eldad (HaIchud HaLeumi-NRP) to set up a special authority to run the Mount of Olives. He says the cemetery looks very bad and is turning into a meeting place for delinquents, and neglect and vandalism prevail there.

Eli Shmuelian, deputy director of the Authority for the Development of East Jerusalem, reported the security project for Har Hazeisim will include installing security cameras, setting up a control center, mounted patrols, etc. The project has been approved by the police, the Housing Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality.

During the meeting representatives from various government ministries gave varying accounts of the funding allocated for the project until Committee Chairman MK Ofir Pines (Labor) said, "There are representatives from every government ministry sitting here, yet nobody knows how much money was actually transferred to the Mount of Olives..."

Another MK said the government transferred millions of shekels to the site, but no ministry knows what happened to the money.

MK David Azoulai said, "On paper the whole world is taking care of the site, but in reality nothing's being done."


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