LOS ANGELES (Aug. 2)
Jewish community organizations and police have implemented tougher security measures this week in the wake of three local bomb scares that came within days of the attacks on Jewish institutions in Buenos Aires and London.
In the first reported incident, on July 27, police cordoned off a section of Wilshire Boulevard, after a suspicious car was reported parked on the sixth level of the 17-story building housing the Israeli Consulate.
The previous day, a bomb exploded outside the Israeli Consulate in London, injuring 13 people. Early in the morning of July 27, another bomb exploded in front of a Jewish communal building in London, injuring another five people.
After the car was spotted at the consulate in Los Angeles, a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, the city’s busiest thoroughfare, remained closed to traffic between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Police checked out the car, as well as other cars parked near the Jewish Community Building, two blocks from the consulate.
‘WE ARE CONDUCTING BUSINESS AS USUAL’
Following the police investigation, the alert was lifted, said Ido Aharoni, consul for communications and public affairs, who noted that no threats had been received at the consulate or by Israelis living in Los Angeles.
“We are alert and maintaining full security, but otherwise we are conducting business as usual,” said Aharoni.
In the second incident on the same day, a bomb threat was received by phone at the University of Judaism in West Los Angeles. The main building was evacuated while police searched the premises for about 90 minutes before giving the all-clear, said Warren Spry, the university’s facilities director.
The following day, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its adjoining Museum of Tolerance were evacuated for three hours, following two separate but almost simultaneous incidents, according to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean.
Two oversized vans tried to enter the center’s parking lot around 3:30 p.m., but were turned back and the drivers detained until police arrived. Subsequent questioning showed that the vans were connected with a group scheduled to tour the museum, and the drivers were released.
At almost the same time, a college student phoned police from a public phone directly across Pico Boulevard from the Wiesenthal Center, and said that a bomb would explode at the Museum of Tolerance at 4 p.m.
Police immediately apprehended the caller, described as a U.S. citizen of Asian descent, and after determining that he and his roommate had just finished visiting the museum, ordered an evacuation of the premises.
According to Cooper, the caller may have been emotionally unbalanced. His roommate quoted the caller as claiming earlier that God had told him about the supposed bomb explosion.
During the three-hour evacuation, Pico Boulevard, another major east-west traffic artery, was cordoned off for several blocks, as well.
Since the attack on the main Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, in which about 100 people were killed, police throughout the metropolitan area have been patrolling Jewish institutions more frequently and in greater strength, said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, Western regional director of the American Jewish Committee.
Greenebaum is a member and immediate past president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
At the Jewish Community Building, housing the Jewish Federation Council, its agencies and other Jewish organizations, added security measures were implemented following a meeting of executives.
No one will be allowed to park in front of the building, employees and visitors will have to wear clear identifications and police will maintain a constant surveillance, said Gary Wexler, the federation’s communications director.
The federation and the Anti-Defamation League will shortly hold security seminars for Jewish institutions to reinforce instructions first issued during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.