(JTA) — Dozens of Russian Jewish community leaders and businessmen arrived in Israel for a solidarity visit led by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar.
The approximately 50 visitors from across the Russian Federation landed in Israel earlier this week and are scheduled to return next week, Lazar said.
The group was scheduled to leave for Israel after the Jewish holidays, “but some thought we should reschedule in light of the situation,” Lazar said in reference to dozens of attacks on Jews by Palestinians over the past two weeks, and several revenge attacks by Jews against Arabs. “But we decided that this was precisely the time to come to Israel and show our solidarity.”
The delegation, with representatives from St. Petersburg near Finland to Khabarovsk near the Chinese border, “is taking basic security precautions but we are making a point of getting around in Jerusalem on foot, as the Jerusalemites do, to show we will not be intimidated by terror,” Lazar said. The delegation visited army bases in Israel’s north, where participants donated money toward helping improve soldiers’ service conditions, he added.
Meanwhile, Israeli hoteliers and other owners of tourism-based businesses are reporting a further decline in tourism on top of a 20-percent decrease this summer that preceded the current increase in violence.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of State announced that the Old City of Jerusalem was off limits to U.S. government employees until Saturday, and advised private U.S. citizens to “take into consideration these restrictions and the additional guidance contained in the Department’s travel warning for Israel.”
Issued on Oct. 13, the warning urged visitors to avoid demonstrations and crowded areas.
Also on Friday, Israeli police detected and disarmed a homemade bomb at a checkpoint near Jerusalem.
A police dog located the device, a pipe bomb, at a checkpoint next to east Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighborhood, Israel Radio reported.