While Jewish activists were promoting equal rights to the Temple Mount for people of all faiths, Palestinian leaders stirred up violence against Israel due to a substantial increase of late in the number of Jewish visitors to the site.
Although the Israel Defense Forces liberated East Jerusalem during the Six Day War, the government granted control of the Mount to the Waqf (Muslim Religious Trust), which is under Jordanian administration.
The result has been profound discrimination against Jews and Christians, whose visits are severely restricted. For instance, non-Muslim prayer on the Mount – Judaism’s holiest site, where the First and Second Temples stood – is strictly forbidden.
At a recent Knesset Interior Committee meeting on this issue, Temple Mount Heritage Foundation founder Yehuda Glick described ongoing limitations on non-Muslim visitors enforced by Israeli police, who seemingly focus on preventing conflict rather than on equality.
“The Temple Mount is the heart of the Jewish people,” Glick declared.
The meeting took place a week before the Festival of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), which was celebrated last week. The purpose was to prevent violence such as that which occurred during Rosh Hashana, when riots broke out in response to Jewish prayer services at the Mount; 15 people were arrested.
Despite opposition to Jewish worship there, voiced at the meeting by certain Arab Members of Knesset – including Ahmed Tibi, who claimed that Jews have no historical rights to the site and that their visits would amount to a “declaration of war” – Knesset Interior Committee Chairwoman Miri Regev stated:
“Nothing bad would happen if Jews, Muslims and Christians would all be allowed to pray at a site that’s holy to them.”
In a “civilized” society, people should have the freedom to pray wherever they choose, she added.
Just a month earlier, when Muslims celebrated Ramadan, Jews respected their right to pray undisturbed, as usual.
Many non-Muslims were planning to visit the Mount during Sukkot. The Jerusalem District Police, notwithstanding earlier assurances that the site would be accessible, prevented access to hundreds of Jewish worshippers last Tuesday, citing a threat of Arab disturbances.
“A new intifada should erupt against the Zionist enemy and we believe that our people have the will and ability to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea,” Islamic Jihad leader Ahmed Al Mudallal declared during a rally in Gaza last week, protesting against the Jewish visits.
Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida slammed efforts to “Judaize Jerusalem,” especially the Temple Mount.
Following this incitement, violence occurred in various locations in the Old City of Jerusalem as well as in several areas in Judea and Samaria.
“The irony is that according to the Hebrew prophets, the Temple is meant to be a house of prayer for all nations,” explained Rabbi Chaim Richman, director of the Temple Mount Institute. “Every single prophet of Israel had one major message: The Temple will be rebuilt and will be the focal point of the spiritual energy of all mankind and a vehicle to bring about world peace.”
Author: Atara Beck, staff writer for United with Israel
Date: Sept 30, 2013