Severely Distorted Thinking about the Temple Mount

The Jewish people have a right to pray on the Temple Mount.

Jewish presence in the land of Israel goes back more than 3,000 years.  Jews prayed for millennia, while separated from the land, to be able to return.  Once they did return, the people sacrificed in order to build and protect the land.

And now, the Jew who is passionate about Jewish rights and Jewish attachment to the land is viewed as a “radical right winger,” a troublemaker.

The world at large certainly sees matters this way:  If only nationalist Jews would relent already, then Israel could reach an agreement with the Palestinian Arabs and there could be peace. But the fanatic and troublesome right-wingers keep getting in the way.

The reason that Jews who seek Jewish rights are seen as troublemakers is because the Arabs tend to negotiate by way of violence and threats.

A tendency towards violence is inherent in the Arab Muslim culture.  We are not looking at a modern phenomenon, but at a situation that has persisted for centuries.  We see it in the way children are treated in this society, and the fact that it is considered permissible if not necessary sometimes to kill women for the sake of family honor.  It is well known among those who deal with these issues that terrorists who kill Jews then mutilate their bodies.  Relief and satisfaction derive from gruesome expressions of violence?

The true roots of deep Muslim Arab anger, expressed via overt violence, are not “the occupation” or the lack of a Palestinian state.  Social scientists find it in such things as sexual abuse of young boys (also common in the culture); this perpetuates violence as the boys grow up angry.

But now the situation is being exacerbated by Palestinian Arab leaders, so-called, who use this tendency towards violence for political gain, inciting their people rather than seeking to reduce tensions in the street. They are manipulating the crowds. For the Muslim Arab culture that is so prone to violence is also an honor/shame culture.  The perception that they have been “dissed,” treated with disrespect, foments anger and then violence.  And the messages being delivered by the likes of Mahmoud Abbas to the Palestinian Arabs is precisely this: that they are being treated with disrespect by Israel.

This culture is not big on compromise, either. To compromise is to forgo part of what you are entitled to, and this diminishes your honor.

What happens then is that the Jew who seeks his or her rights is seen as “causing” Arab riots and attacks. How much more peaceful it would be, if only these Jews would stop insisting on things that irritate the Palestinian Arabs.   Sounds crazy/unreasonable/simplistic, but that indeed is what is happening.  Palestinian Arabs, who are collectively bullies, are being broadly embraced anyway.  Either their violence is perceived as justified, or it is simply deemed wise to give them what they want to keep them quiet.

It is particularly important to deal with this issue now because Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who speaks for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, endured an attack on his life in Jerusalem last Wednesday and faces a long struggle for recovery. Since he was shot, he has been referred to again and again in the media as “far right,” “radical” and more.  No one says, “Well, he deserved it.”  But implicit is the notion that if only he, and others like him, were less passionate about the Temple Mount there would be less Palestinian Arab anger.  People like Rav Yehuda are seen as stirring the unrest.

But this has precious little to do with who Yehuda Glick really is:

Invariably, his friends and family say he is a gentle, non-confrontational soul, who would be delighted for good relations with Muslims.

He calls the Temple the House of Prayer for All Nations. This concept is built into Jewish tradition: In the days to come, all monotheistic religions are to have a share in the Temple to be built on the Mount one day.  Isaiah 56:7 – “…for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

While he doesn’t back down from Jewish rights he readily explains this vision, describing the possibility that the Muslim Dome of the Rock could be retained as part of the Temple, if the Muslims would be peaceful and share in an effort to cooperate.

And he has been filmed joining in a prayer session with Arabs at the Mount.

Some radical extremist!

When Israel liberated the Old City and the Temple Mount in 1967, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan made a very foolish – a very bad - decision.  He turned to the Muslims in charge on the Mount – the Wakf or Muslim Trust - and told them that they would continue to manage day to day affairs there.

The worst of what he did was to rule that there would be no Jewish praying on the Mount, so as to not upset the status quo there.

It is not at all certain that Dayan’s motivation in doing this was proper, and it is clear that, as he was not a religious Jew himself, he saw the Mount more as a site of historical interest than one of on-going religious concern.  But we can give him the benefit of the doubt in this respect: he probably didn’t understand Muslim Arab mentality or how matters would evolve.

Over the years Jews have petitioned for the right to pray on the Mount.  This issue was last brought before the High Court in 2006, at which point it was said that only if “there is concrete information about actual danger to life” should Jewish praying be forbidden.  But ultimately, the matter was left in the hands of the police, who prefer preventing Jewish prayer so that it is not necessary to send in reinforcements to contend with Arab rioting.

But how outrageous that in the Jewish state, where the rights of all religious groups are protected, it should be impossible for Jews to pray in the place that is holiest to Jews.

Over the last few years, there has been movement by Muslim groups to libel Israel, in order to arouse the people: The totally fallacious claim that Jews are about to destroy the Al Aksa Mosque on the Mount has been put out regularly.

But now it has gotten much worse: there is a battle cry that the Mount is totally the heritage of the Muslims and that Jews have no business setting foot on it.  Declared Abbas just days ago:

“It is our sacred place, al-Aksa [mosque] is ours, this Noble Sanctuary [as Muslims refer to the Temple Mount] is ours. They have no right to go there and desecrate it.”

Abbas put out calls to “protect” the Mount from Jews. And then, when it was closed to everyone for a day, after the attempted assassination of Yehuda Glick, he called for a “day of rage,” because Muslims may never be prevented from entering the Mount for any reason.  This unleashed additional violence – with the throwing of pipe-bombs at police and much more in eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods on Friday night and Saturday.

Palestinian Media Watch has reported that last week, before the conference on the Temple Mount, at which Yehuda Glick spoke:

“[F]ormer PA Prime Minister and PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Qurei (Abu Alaa) issued a press release in which he condemned ‘the danger’ of the conference organized by Glick and warned of ‘extremist biblical plans encouraging settlers and extremist Jews to carry out large-scale invasions of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and calling on the entire Jewish nation to invade the Mosque.’ He also stated that Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are ‘undergoing one of the most dangerous periods since the beginning of the Israeli occupation’ and that it necessitates ‘immediate intervention.’”

At the same time, there has been a growing sense of outrage among religious Jews that prayer on the Mount is not permitted.  Members of the Jewish Home party have been advancing legislation that would allocate different periods of time and different areas for Jewish and Muslim prayer on the Mount.  This proposal, which is altogether fair and equitable, is modeled after the pattern of shared praying time for the Machpela [Cave of the Patriarchs] in Hebron.

It will not succeed at this point, however, because Prime Minister Netanyahu will block it.  His rallying cry has been one of calling for “restraint” and maintaining “the status quo” on the Temple Mount.

To Israelis, he is saying that he will not permit the advancement of legislation for praying on the Mount, and to Arabs, that he will not permit the co-opting of the Mount by Muslims in a way that excludes Jews.

It is easy to understand Netanyahu’s unease.  Now even the Arab League has weighed in with threats.  Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Hilli has called on Arabs and the international community “to put a stop to these practices by the Israeli occupation authorities in Jerusalem. Touching Jerusalem will lead to results with untold consequences.”  But these are only threats.  The Arab states have enough on their plates to contend with, without throwing their weight around on this issue.

However, we must be honest and recognize that the time of the “status quo” has already come to an end. Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, Director of the Temple Institute, says the Mount “has become a stronghold of Islam. The Arabs get tons of money just to have a presence there and intimidate Jews who dare to ascend the Mount.”

Unless the Jewish presence on the Mount is strengthened, Israeli influence will continue to diminish, with consequences that are unthinkable.

As mentioned above, it is the Muslim Wakf that is in control on the Mount, at least theoretically. And it is a Jordanian Wakf (not a PA Wakf).  The Jordanians have a role in what is going on.

Their peace treaty with Israel notwithstanding, they participate in threats, and have done everything in their power to diminish Israeli influence on the Mount. King Abdullah has just declared that he will work against “Israeli unilateralism” in Jerusalem and there have been mumblings about Jordan breaking its peace treaty with Israel over these matters.

King Abdullah is shaky on his throne.  He is contending with a host of radical forces at his border, thousands of Syrian refugees inside of his border, and pressure from Palestinian Arabs. Thus he plays it in a manner that he believes will best protect him.

And, consequently, Netanyahu has always done a very careful balancing act with Jordan. It is in the Israeli interest that the king should not fall.

With all of this said, however, it is instructive to consider the text of the 1994 Peace Treaty Agreement between Israel and Jordan. With regard to this issue, it says (emphasis added):



1. _Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance_…

2. In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines. (This has to do with Israel not giving the PA priority on the Mount.)

3. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.

Not only does this not give Jordan great power on the Mount, it would seem that Jordan has been severely remiss in meeting its responsibilities.  Freedom of access to places of religious significance?  Freedom of religious worship?  Well, now.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) has it right:

“I hear the Jordanians are threatening the peace agreement and [I] wonder if they have forgotten the Six Day War and the years in which King Hussein leaned on Israel. The Temple Mount and Jerusalem are under Israeli sovereignty just as Amman is under the absolute rule of Jordan. They should internalize this fact.”

THIS is the sort of talk we need to hear more of from the Israeli government.

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