Jerusalem undercover police gear up for elections, the High Holidays

Yamas chief superintendent to ‘Post:’ City is objectively not safe without the police.

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September 12, 2019 18:21
2 minute read.
Jerusalem undercover police gear up for elections, the High Holidays

Yamas unit - illustrative. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

Jerusalem’s special forces counter-terrorist unit attached to the Israeli Border Police is gearing up for the elections on Sept. 17 and the High Holidays, which start less than two weeks later, according to the unit’s chief superintendent, D.R.

The Yamas unit, as it is known, is directly subordinate to Shin Bet. A secret unit, known for its undercover counter-terrorist operations conducted in civilian Arab disguise within Arab territories, its personnel do not wear uniforms and are not allowed to disclose their membership of the organization.

In Jerusalem, they operate to keep Jerusalem safe in what Israel Police national spokesman to the foreign media Mickey Rosenfeld describes as “claustrophobic civilian-populated areas.” He said they work to find weapons and identify potential terrorists before they act.

“The days leading up to the election,” Rosenfeld said, “are particularly sensitive.”

D.R. has been running the unit for nearly three years. He said what makes the unit unique is its diversity. Officers come from elite IDF units to work with Yamas or undergo special training courses that last for more than a year in order to operate in the field.

“It’s very complicated,” D.R. told The Jerusalem Post. “We are operating in the same areas but we have to maintain anonymity. We are always working to develop new tools and skills to be able to maintain an element of surprise.”

It is particularly hard in Jerusalem, because officers must operate both within the Arab neighborhoods, but also keep an eye on the surrounding Arab cities, such as Bethlehem and Ramallah. Roads leading into Jerusalem have to be monitored, as well as potential criminals or terrorists who set up shop in the eastern part of the city.

Take a recent string of incidents in Ma'ale HaZeitim, a small Jewish community on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, inside the Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. There are about 250 Jewish people living there and recently young Arabs were throwing Molotov cocktails and makeshift explosive devices at the Jews and their homes and cars.

The Yamas unit was continually receiving appeals for help from the Jewish community. It took the team a couple of weeks to find the culprits.

“Working with local police, we had to go into the city and catch the boys doing the act,” D.R. said. “This is classic. These things happen every day, but you don’t really hear about them and they are not written about.”

He said that Yamas’ job is to keep Jerusalem quiet for residents and visitors.

“It is 100% correct to say that Jerusalem would not be quiet if we didn’t do our work,” D.R. said, explaining that there are many criminal and/or terror-linked incidents that are stopped with the help of the undercover unit. “The city is objectively not safe without the police.”

But he said he is most proud not of the incidents the unit stops but of what it is creating – the way the team works together with “the special goal of protecting Jerusalem.”

“If you ever come and visit our headquarters, you’ll see that we have the rainbow of Israeli society. My unit is an example that we can live in peace with each other,” D.R. said. “We know that ‘'from Zion shall come forth Torah.’ When we protect Jerusalem then Torah can come forth from the whole of Israel – for everyone, not just Jews.”


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