Police Minister: Rachel´s Tomb Soon to be More Accessible

Public Security Minister Dichter told religious MKs that he'll act to allow Jews to visit Rachel's Tomb without restrictions in a matter of weeks. The MKs confronted him with other issues as well.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 16:40

The nine-member National Union-National Religious Party Knesset faction invited Dichter yesterday (Monday) to discuss several issues of concern. Dichter [pictured] served as head of the General Security Service (Shabak) until joining the Kadima party in early 2006.

* Regarding Rachel's Tomb, the MKs said that now that the entire compound is protected and fortified, worshipers should be allowed to reach the site freely. At present, visitors must take reinforced buses, which arrive infrequently and only according to a pre-determined schedule. Dichter said he would act to ensure that within several weeks, Jews would be permitted to visit the holy site without the requirement of a reinforced vehicle.

* The MKs also raised the issue of police violence and lack of police name-tags at nationalist-camp anti-government protests. Dichter was asked to suspend the policemen who, at the Amona incident last year, beat MKs Eldad and Eitam, trampled Yehuda Etzion with a horse, and hit children. The minister said, however, that the law does not currently allow the suspension of policemen who are on trial for violence. The minister admitted that the phenomenon of police violence has reached "worrisome dimensions."

* A major issue of discussion was that of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. The police often prevent Jews from praying there at their most sacred site, in order to mollify the Arabs who threaten violence. Jewish prayer at the area known as the Small Wall, further north along the Western Wall, is also often restricted.

MK Uri Ariel said that this status quo must not be allowed to continue. "We must find the opportunity to change this situation, where Jews are not permitted to pray at their most sacred site," he said.

Dichter said that the issue is a diplomatic one that only the government can decide upon. MK Aryeh Eldad said that the Supreme Court had ruled clearly that individual Jews must be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. It was agreed that Eldad would transmit a copy of the ruling to Minister Dichter for his perusal.

* Regarding the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Akko (Acre), where local Jews have been plagued of late by increasing Arab violence, Dichter said he would "consider" deploying Border Guard contingents in problematic neighborhoods. He said that special police forces already patrol in the mixed city of Jaffa.

* Dichter also promised that he would "act vis-a-vis the army" in an effort to enable Jewish civilian traffic on the road leading from eastern Gush Etzion to the Har Homa neighborhood of southeastern Jerusalem. Gush Etzion residents say the road, which the army has closed to Jewish traffic, is a critical alternative to the often-blocked Tunnels Road.

* MKs Tzvi Hendel, Eli Gabbai and Nissan Slomiansky raised the matter of increasing Bedouin crime and violence in the Negev. Dichter said he took upon himself as a "personal project" the problem of Bedouin take-over of state lands, but "my efforts were stymied by bureaucratic wrangling." He said he is still studying the matter and seeking ways to solve it. The minister noted that violence in the Negev has decreased over the past several months.

* Dichter was unable to promise anything on the matter of the 20 Yesha men who have been distanced from their homes and families for 3-12 months. He said it is a military issue, and that the most he can do is to request that the government demand that the distancing orders be revoked or that the men be put on trial. Government sources say the evidence against the 20 is "too secret to be publicized," such that the men have essentially been "sentenced" without trial.

The NU-NRP faction says it will invite other government ministers to meet with them about matters of mutual concern.