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Holding the Safety Line

Shlomi Gil

Border Police commander Arad Braverman is supervisor of more than a hundred combat officers deployed around the Kosel and Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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“During Chanukah, tens of thousands of people will come here, and we have to make sure they’re protected, that they can walk around safely everywhere in the old city” —Arad Braverman (Photos: Lior Mizrachi)

O ne of the most crowded times in Jerusalem’s Old City is during Chanukah, when Jews from around the country come to the Western Wall to commemorate the ancient rededication of the Beis Hamikdash. This year, as always, prominent rabbinic figures and dignitaries are slotted in a roster to light the two huge menorahs at the Kosel plaza, but as the crush of people will converge on the Kosel around sunset and throughout the day — spilling into the dark alleyways of the Muslim Quarter — one group has more on their minds than just watching the holy flames ignite: After last week’s riots following US President Trump’s dramatic declaration regarding Israel’s capital, they need to keep those crowds safe.

As commander of Brigade Gimmel of the Border Police in the Old City, Arad Braverman oversees more than a hundred combat officers deployed around the hot spots of the area, in charge of securing one of the most sensitive locations in the world.

He says that even though the Arabs of East Jerusalem went into a bit of a frenzy last week, and there were a few hours when buses to the Kosel weren’t running, Jewish visitors shouldn’t change their plans.

“We have increased security over the entire area,” Braverman told Mishpacha, “and more than that, the Arab businessmen in the area — in the shuk and beyond — have themselves taken care of the rioters. This is their busiest season, and they don’t want their livelihood ruined over a political statement. These are the power people in the Arab sector, and they’ve already made sure to remove the troublemakers from the area.”

The brigade’s goal is to maintain the greatest possible visible police presence in the Old City and to make sure all the alleyways are secure, Braverman explains from his office at the Machkemah Police Station — an ancient structure that was built atop the left side of the Kosel hundreds of years ago, and that served for years as a Muslim courthouse until it was captured with the Old City during the Six Day War.

“There are several units operating in the Old City,” Braverman says, “and each one has its own role and focus. Ultimately, the combination of all the units is what gives us our overall proficiency. We have to be able to switch from routine to crisis control in any emergency that, obviously, always starts without warning — although last week’s riots didn’t come as a surprise. We don’t make the policy, though — our job is to provide safety within the confines of government policy.” Braverman’s unit is the largest, covering the Kosel, Muslim Quarter, and Lion’s Gate.

 

It’s been a tough year for Braverman’s team. There were dozens of attempted stabbing attacks and shootings, and a prolonged uprising following the murder of two Israeli police officers on Har HaBayis. Those riots, protesting the installation of metal detectors at the entrances to Har Habayis to prevent the Arabs from bringing in knives and guns, only died down weeks later, after the Israeli government capitulated and removed the detectors.

There have been other instances over the past months where Brigade Gimmel soldiers had to face off with terrorists, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat, until the terrorist was neutralized. One terrorist forged through Lion’s Gate with two knives and proceeded to stab the officers on duty at the guard station. “For a full two minutes they were able to ward him off, sustaining stab wounds to their faces and bodies,” Braverman says. “It’s a very small and crowded police post, and the officers couldn’t shoot without the bullets ricocheting. Finally, one of the officers managed to get outside and lured out the terrorist who began to chase him. At that point the officer had a clear shot and liquidated him on the spot.”

Arad Braverman tackles his mission with commendable efficiency and effectiveness — a day in the life of a commander of the most complex area in the region is never routine. Braverman usually knows how he’ll begin each day, but he never knows how it will unfold. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 689)

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