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Monday, March 24, 2008

A terror attack waiting to happen?

This morning's JPost has a story that calls the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, which is located in the Galilee town of Meron "a terror attack waiting to happen." The grave has no security whatsoever, and while it has thousands of visitors every week, the peak is on the Jewish semi-holiday of Lag BaOmer on which some 500,000 people visit the grave (picture of past celebration at top left).
"Every week thousands of people visit the site, but there are no security checks whatsoever," said Rabbi Mordechai Halperin, chairman of Moshav Meron, where the grave is located.

"Just this weekend a man who turned out to be an Arab was wandering around the place, apparently gathering information," said Halperin, who plans to present evidence of the security risk to a Knesset committee on Monday.

The security problem is just one of the pressing issues that has been left untouched as various groups vie for control over the holy site.

Halperin said there was also a general lack of upkeep at the site, which he described as dilapidated.

"It is an embarrassment to bring visitors from abroad to the grave," he said.

Other sources said that Meron, a center for nonprofit organizations including soup kitchens, had become an attraction for criminals and the homeless. With Purim over, Pessah a month away and Lag Ba'omer in the offing, the anarchy surrounding the burial place of the founding father of Kabbala, Israel's most visited holy site after the Western Wall, is once again being pushed to the forefront.

Every week, thousands, many of them not religiously observant, flock to the burial site of the talmudic sage who, according to tradition, authored the mystical work the Zohar, in search of a special connection to God that they believe can be obtained only by channeling into the energies of Bar-Yohai.

United Torah Judaism chairman Ya'acov Litzman initiated the discussion in the Knesset two months ahead of Lag Ba'omer (May 23), the anniversary of Bar-Yohai's death, in an attempt to sort out who is responsible for managing the site.

Approximately 500,000 people visit the grave each year on Lag Ba'omer, many of them camping out days in advance. On the night of the anniversary the entire Meron area is alight with bonfires, in accordance with the tradition that Bar-Yohai was taken up to heaven in a burst of flames.
I can see a real danger of a terror attack at the grave, but it is just one of hundreds of sites throughout Israel that is unprotected. I can think of tens of synagogues and yeshivas in Israel that have little or no protection and often have hundreds of people in a small area at a given time with very few means of escape. What happened at Merkaz HaRav could - God forbid - happen in hundreds of other places. Unlike restaurants - which were able to prevent most terror attacks earlier this decade by hiring armed guards to stand outside - most synagogues and yeshivas are far too tight in the budget department to hire security guards. Should the government hire them? Ideally, the government should prevent terror attacks in the first place by cracking down on the 'Palestinians,' but so long as the Olmert-Barak-Livni junta is in power, there is no basis to expect that to happen. In the absence of a real crackdown on terror, the government ought to do its duty to protect its citizenry and hire security guards for synagogues and yeshivas. But the cost of protecting every synagogue and yeshiva in Israel (or even every sizable synagogue and yeshiva in Israel) would be astronomical.


At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hence: אם אין ערבים, אין פיגועים

Oh, we're not allowed to say that. Sorry.


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