A dismal first: All Jerusalem synagogues to have armed guard for holidays

Fearing terrorist attacks, thousands of regular officers and border police will be deployed throughout the capital, especially in the Old City.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

For the first time ever in Israel’s history, the police will be stationing an armed guard at every single synagogue in Jerusalem during the High Holidays in light of the recent sharp rise in Palestinian terrorism.

The capital has been hit especially hard, with 19 attacks taking place there since the beginning of the year.

A further 31 attempted terror attacks were foiled by security services, which averages to just under one attempt to kill Jerusalemites per week.

The spike in terror attacks and rising tensions prompted  Israel’s top brass to provide extra protective measures during the month-long holiday period, when crowds regularly gather, whether at synagogues, holy sites, or entertainment spots.

“Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are significant holidays, and even though there are no simultaneous Muslim events, it remains a challenge,” said Jerusalem District commander Doron Turgeman, in comments reported by Channel 12.

“We must maintain a high level of preparedness. Those who come to Jerusalem trust us to ensure their safety. The freedom to worship during Jewish holidays and Arab prayer times is of utmost importance.”

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Thousands of regular and border police, as well as volunteers, will be deployed throughout the capital to secure routes and regulate crowd movement. They will pay special attention to the Old City and the Western Wall, as every year the holy site is mobbed by Jewish visitors.

Security has already been tightened in the area in the last few weeks, as thousands have been attending the traditional pre-holiday penitential Selihot prayers that are said on a nightly basis.

Although the formal placement of armed guards at synagogues is new to Israel, though not abroad, there have been many times in the past that the police have called on the citizenry to maintain extra vigilance during holiday periods due to general warnings they have received of terror attacks in the works.

This has included informal recommendations to have at least one person in every synagogue take his personal weapon to services, and to store in a handy place a charged, switched-on cellphone so that security forces can be called quickly if necessary.

In April, following a terrorist attack in front of a Jerusalem synagogue in January in which seven people were killed, the chief rabbi of the Israel Police sent a letter to synagogue rabbis saying that after consulting with rabbinical leaders and “professional elements of the police,” he is appealing to them “to order in their communities that everyone who has a license to carry a weapon should carry a weapon with them on Shabbat [the Sabbath], especially during prayer times in the synagogues.”