Mount of Olives
Mount of OlivesDavid Shankbone

On January 5, hundreds of pro-Israel activists and supporters gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in New York for a celebration of the famed Beit Orot yeshiva and community on Har Hazeitim (the Mount of Olives) in the northern part of East Jerusalem.

The master of ceremonies was long time radio personality Nachum Segal (JM in the AM) who said, referring to the controversy that swirls around the U.S. demand that construction of new Jewish homes and yeshivas in East Jerusalem come to a screeching halt,  "I am one who believes that Jews should be able to live wherever they choose in the land that was bequeathed to them by G-d and which is their possession and inheritance. The holy city of Jerusalem takes on special significance for the Jewish people as it has been the Jewish capital for thousands of years and every inch of this precious city must maintain a Jewish presence."

The Beit Orot hesder yeshiva, in which students combine Torah study with serving in the Israel Defense Forces, represents the epicenter of the Har Hazeitim developing neighborhood and is the first Jewish presence in over 2000 years in this part of Jerusalem. Also known as The Irving Moskowitz Yeshiva and Campus, it stands on the strategically crucial northern ridge of the Mount of Olives and boasts a most spectacular view of the old city of Jerusalem.

Seth H. Schreiber, Chairman of the Board of Americans Friends of Beit Orot, said, "We will never allow the powers that be to stop us from building our homes in our own land. We just recently got our license to build and we are committed to continue to build a strong and united Jerusalem as we secure our future for generations to come." He added that "when a Jew builds a home in his own land, he is charged with inciting global unrest, while the real terrorists who refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and who proudly proclaim their desire to obliterate the Jewish people are viewed as downtrodden victims."

The evening included a video presentation of the testimony of  Rabbi Chanan Porat, a founder of Beit Orot, who spoke of losing his beloved platoon commander, Giora Ashkenazi to Arab forces in the 1967 war. "Giora was not religious but was as straight as a man can be", Rabbi Porat said with tears in his eyes. "I always wondered who would say kaddish for him and today his grandchildren are religious Jews. His grandson comes to Beit Orot to recite kaddish for him and his wife supports our efforts to build in the very place that Giora gave his life for his people."

A formidable contingent of attendees at the dinner represented Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI), a pro-Israel advocacy organization that has been in the forefront of support for the building of Jewish homes and communities throughout Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.