Temple Mount Violence
by Sarah Ann Haves
Violence on the Temple Mount in Israel continues to disrupt the status quo, as Muslim rioters launch attacks from the Al Aksa Mosque against the Israeli police, locals and tourists visiting the site. The attacks are premeditated, with rocks and explosives being stored inside the mosque, by Islamic extremists who are intent on disrupting religious freedoms during strategic times. Currently, thousands of pilgrims have come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the biblical fall feasts and to visit the Temple Mount — the holiest site for Jews and many Christians throughout the world.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Proser, foresees a regional explosion if the Palestinians are able to continue to set the Temple Mount ablaze, and if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to fuel the fires of incitement at the contested holy place.
been fierce during
Israel’s high holy days.
Increasingly, Israel’s internal public security officials have been determined to quell vicious activities initiated by those Islamists who are intent on limiting access to the Temple Mount area to strictly Muslims. In recent years, the hostilities have been particularly fierce during Israel’s high holy days.
At a recent press conference in Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat expressed his frustrations with the current aggressors on the Temple Mount. Barkat insists that Jerusalem will remain an open city for freedom of expression for all religions. However, he pointed out that recent extremists are attacking people to try and deter that openness. “This is something that is unacceptable which we, the national government of Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu, the (Jerusalem) municipality, and the police will not allow.”
Barkat explained that approximately 200,000 Christians and 12,000 Jews visit the Mount yearly, but are not allowed to express themselves in prayer at the site. Israel enables more than 3 million Moslems a year (3.5 million this year) to go up on the Temple Mount and pray. This policy has been maintained since 1967.
He warned that peace-seeking people that respect other religions can come to the Mount, but if they become hostile, the Israeli government and the police will crackdown on perpetrators, “to assure that terrorists will not gain what they want to gain.”
The Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dore Gold, reiterated at the Jerusalem press conference that aggressive actions of Islamic extremists on the Mount are often planned and coordinated.
“The recent upsurge in violence was not something that spontaneously occurred. It was not a reflection of pent up frustrations. It was a deliberate policy by certain groups who have been seeking to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount.”
Gold says that, gradually since the 1990’s, there has been an erosion of the status quo on the Mount that once allowed co-existence. Islamic institutions have grown and thrived, while access for Jews to the site has become more and more restrictive. The situation continues to be explosive.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu has tried to calm nerves in the international community explaining over and over again that Israel is intent on maintaining the status quo, but the Jordanian government along with the UN, have voiced concern that Israel is not keeping the peace on the Mount… an inaccurate assessment.
Though Israel, by law, has sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Jordanian WAQF (Islamic holy trust), has been given jurisdiction over the site to maintain it and preserve the peace. Instead, the WAQF harasses locals and tourists, while giving unprecedented favor to Muslims who want to go up on the Mount.
The Israeli police expect the WAQF to keep things quiet, but WAQF officials have become more and more aggressive over the years, contributing to overall tensions in the area.
Furthermore, it is Abbas who is intent on changing the status quo. During a recent meeting at his Ramallah office he referred to those non-Muslims (Jews and Christians) who want to visit the Temple Mount. “Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”
The Israeli government recently instituted measures to prevent more violent incidents from taking place in east Jerusalem. Hundreds of Israeli police officers have been sent in to reinforce the calm around the Old City, especially after Muslim holy prayers on Friday’s. The police have taken stronger action against those throwing stones, rocks and firebombs. Israel recently clamped down on younger Muslim groups wanting to pray on the Mount after riots broke out at the site. Open-fire orders have been instituted by the Israeli government against those extremists who threaten the lives of police officers and others that are caught in the crossfire of violent clashes – not just on the Temple Mount but at other flashpoints in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
|The mosque looks
like a battlefield not
a house of prayer.
Barkat states that it is mainly during the Jewish holidays, when Jews want to exercise their right to visit the Temple Mount that the attacks occur. Deterrence is the key. “We have chosen to use the option to fight violence in spite of the risk associated with it.”
At the Jerusalem press conference, the media was shown video clips of the militant actions of Muslims using weapons, including the recent introduction of pipe bombs inside the Al-Aksa Mosque, to launch attacks against Israel. The mosque looks like a battlefield rather than a house of prayer. According to Dr. Gold, this is something the Israeli government will not allow to continue.
“These are religious sites. These are not military encampments.”
Yet, the Palestinians use the instability on the Temple Mount as a way of hurting Israel’s image, globally. Stirring strife through diplomatic means, they were recently able to convince Jordan’s King Abdullah to publically threaten the stability of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty if the tensions continue. This plays into the hands of Islamic militants who are inciting and provoking hostilities.
While Abbas is agitating Palestinians through incitement, the root of the crisis on the Mount comes from other Muslims. According to Dr. Gold, efforts to erode the status quo have been led by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and by those who have joined them, particularly Hamas. It is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Funding for these movements comes from Qatar.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is determined to undermine the regime in Egypt… and it’s also determined to undermine the regime in Jordan. So, the forces that are at play on the Temple Mount are the very same forces that wish to, by revolutionary means, change the regimes in this part of the world. When Israel is trying to restore stability and religious freedom, in many respects it is acting in the interests of all its moderate neighbors around.”
In the meantime, Abbas and other Muslim leaders continue their strategy of refusing to accept Israel’s sovereignty over the Temple Mount, while hoping to convince global leaders that Israel is to blame for the recent aggression at the site. They are further demanding that Muslims be acknowledged as having sovereignty over the site, not the Jews.
As the holidays continue with festivities during the Feast of Succot (Tabernacles), the security situation in and around Jerusalem, especially at the Western Wall and at the Temple Mount, remains critical. Tensions are high and there are still several days left before tourists return home, and before some semblance of calm returns for the locals in their holy city of Jerusalem.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls. Prosperity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’ Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.” Psalm 122:6-9
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.