Jerusalem – Shimon Peres Funeral Poses Large Security Challenge

Traffic will be restricted and diverted throughout Jerusalem on Thursday and Friday to enable the funeral convoy and the entrance of foreign dignitaries.

Heads of state and other dignitaries arriving in Israel to attend the funeral will be accommodated in four of the capital’s hotels.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, the working assumption is that US President Barack Obama will be coming to Israel for the funeral, but as of Tuesday night there has not been official confirmation.

All the other US officials will be accommodated at the David Citadel Hotel, while all heads of state and government or their deputies will stay at the King David Hotel.

Foreign ministers and other dignitaries will be provided with suites and guest rooms at the Waldorf Astoria, Mamilla and Inbal hotels.

The highest-ranking guest at the King David will be Prince Charles of the United Kingdom. The King David Hotel, which traditionally hosts heads of state and government officials, will be familiar to many of those who have been to Israel before.

Police said they are seeking to minimize traffic interruptions, but there will be road blocks and changes in traffic flow in order to ensure “a safe and dignified movement of the convoy” and to allow the movement of VIP guests, most of whom will arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday.

According to a statement by police, tens of thousands are expected to flood into Jerusalem to pay their respects to the former president and for a public ceremony on Thursday and funeral on Friday. This will be matched by thousands of police officers and border police in Jerusalem, focused around the Knesset and Mount Herzl areas.

“This is a tremendously large security operation,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post: “Thousands of police officers will be present including undercover officers and border police.”

Extensive police forces will escort the coffin from Tzrifin near Rishon Lezion to the Knesset early Thursday morning for a ceremony and a public viewing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The convoy will disrupt traffic for around two hours police said, including for an undisclosed amount of time on Route 1, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, and throughout Jerusalem.

On Friday the police will accompany the convoy from the Knesset to Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery national cemetery and escort the large amount of VIPs arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport. This will also disrupt traffic on Route 1 and inside Jerusalem for an undisclosed amount of time.

The Foreign Ministry began coordinating hotel arrangements within a day or two of Peres suffering his stroke, but nothing was finalized until Wednesday, and even then, not till the afternoon until it was known for certain whether or not Obama would stay in Israel overnight.

Had Obama stayed overnight fewer rooms would have been allocated for other guests, due to his large security staff.

The King David Hotel was inundated by requests from embassies to finalize arrangements for their presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers.

Sheldon Ritz, the deputy general manager in charge of official delegations at the King David was unable to satisfy their needs until he was informed of the arrangements of the US delegation, as the Americans have the largest contingent, and also maintain priority status based on the special US-Israel relationship. Once Ritz was told that the Americans were going to the David Citadel, he could make arrangements for top-ranking representatives of other countries.

It was feared initially that there would not be sufficient rooms in Jerusalem’s most upscale hotels, and that some of the visitors would be sent to Tel Aviv, but the problem was resolved and regular guests of the four hotels had to be re-located.

It was hoped that perhaps on this one occasion, Queen Elizabeth, who in November, 2008, conferred an honorary knighthood on Peres, might attend. But at age 90, she is cutting down on her travels abroad. Prince Charles, wearing a black kippa, represented the queen at the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin in November, 1995.

It is not known whether the prince will take the opportunity to visit the grave of his grandmother Princess Alice, who was the sister of Lord Mountbatten, one of the prince’s favorite relatives who was assassinated by the IRA in August, 1979.

The prince’s father, Prince Philip, came to Israel in 1994 to visit the grave which is situated in the White Russian convent on the Mount of Olives. Princess Alice, who gave shelter to Jews in Nazi-occupied Athens, was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations.

During that visit Prince Philip, more commonly known as the Duke of Edinburgh also stayed at the King David.

The Israel Airports Authority said they completed preparations on Wednesday to receive the heads of state, journalists and guest arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport.

According to the statement by the IAA, passenger influx to Ben-Gurion will reach around 95,000 people Thursday.

The airport is already receiving high travel rates due to the Jewish New Year. During Peres’s 90th birthday more than 60 aircraft of foreign delegations arrived.

The IAA activated a special command Wednesday morning that would allow the air traffic operations division, the control tower, and ground operators to boost arrival and departure capacity at Ben-Gurion Airport to an estimated 34 arrivals and departures per hour.

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