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War on Beggars

Beggar in Jerusalem. No longer allowed at Kotel Photo: Shlomi Cohen
Beggar in Jerusalem. No longer allowed at Kotel Photo: Shlomi Cohen
 
 

Beggars kicked out of Western Wall

In bid to prevent beggars expelled from site from returning, security stations provided with their pictures. 'These are pitiable people, but in order to allow most touristy site to run properly, we need to block them entry,' says security officer

Ari Galahar
Published: 04.21.10, 07:32 / Israel Jewish Scene

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and Israel Police have decided to make the fight against beggars more efficient and distributed pictures of all the people forbidden entry to the site after asking for donations.

 

In recent years, the beggar phenomenon at the Western Wall has reached massive proportions, with dozens of panhandlers roaming the site every day. In a bid to combat the growing trend, any beggar caught asking for handouts is forbidden entry to the site for a full month.

 

However, in many cases, enforcement was ineffective and beggars made their way back into the Western Wall pavilion. Now, in a bid to make enforcement more streamlined and efficient, the company that operates security guards at the Western Wall, Modi'in Ezrahi, distributed pictures of known beggars at all security stands to prevent them from infiltrating.

 

"We stand nearly every day in front of the beggars' pictures, so it is easy for us to spot them," said one of the guards. "The pictures are right in front of our eyes, and we already know them by heart. Some people even dream about them from time to time."

 

According to the same guard, the pictures have already helped him block entry to a number of beggars banned from the holy site. "Over all, these are pitiable people, but in order to allow the touristiest spot to be run peacefully, we need to prevent them from entering," he said.

 

About a half a year ago, Yedioth Jerusalem revealed the method used by beggars working the Western Wall. The system has been coined "the rabbi and the custodian." This is how it works. One of the beggars adopts the roll of "the custodian" and brings tourists to another beggar, "the rabbi," who is praying in a prayer shawl. The tourists receive a blessing from "the rabbi." The custodian then asks them for a donation for the blessing, badgering them until they give up their money.

 

One of the beggars that Ynet caught up with this week at the Western Wall said that a distinction must be made "between frauds who cling to people and don't leave them alone until they give them money and people who collect money because they really don't have any. There are a lot of people who fall between the cracks in the state infrastructure and can't manage to finish out the month. The State can't prevent good people from donating to them.

 

"The commandment of charity is always mentioned in Jewish history, and it is a little bizarre that at the Western Wall of all places, collecting charity is forbidden."

 

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