In a democracy that prides itself on upholding free religious expression,
incitement, intimidation and the use of deadly violence to prevent such free
expression should not be tolerated, and certainly not rewarded. It shouldn’t
matter whether the violence is engaged in by members of the majority religion or
by members of a religious minority.
Sadly, this principle is not followed
in the State of Israel.
Judaism’s holiest site for over 3,000 years has
been the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is on the Temple Mount that both the
First and Second Temples stood, where millions of Jews from all over the Israel
and the Diaspora made the three Festival Pilgrimages and where, according to
Jewish belief, the Third Temple, ushering in the days of the Messiah, is
destined to be built. Throughout history, wherever Jews were engaged in prayer,
they faced Jerusalem. And in Jerusalem, they pray in the direction of the Temple
Yet, even though the State of Israel is in full control of
Jerusalem, Jews, Christians and all non-Muslims are forbidden entry to the
Temple Mount, except during very limited hours. And during those few hours, Jews
can only walk in near silence; they may not pray.
A member of the Wakf,
the Muslim religious council, monitors the movements of Jewish visitors, and the
Israel Police will arrest any Jew upon a complaint by a Wakf member that a Jew
was praying on the Temple Mount.
This happened to me and my daughter when
we visited the Temple Mount the day before her wedding.
Her swaying in
silent meditation was enough to anger our Wakf monitor and land us in the police
station for hours for threatening the public welfare.
Any discussion of
changing this woeful crushing of religious freedom elicits threats of severe
violence from the Wakf, Arab Knesset members and the Islamic Movement in Israel.
This incitement works wonders, as Israeli law enforcement officials regularly
cite these threats in defending their discriminatory treatment of Jews on the
During Jewish holiday periods, the level of incitement is
raised, often accompanied by the hurling of blocks of stone at Jews on the
Temple Mount and at Jewish worshipers in the Western Wall Plaza.
pattern repeated itself during the this past Succot.
responded in the way they always do: They did not stand up to the violent
lawbreakers and protect the basic religious rights of law-abiding Jews. Nor did
they take the less challenging but less equitable option of closing down the
Temple Mount to all.
While this would have unfairly punished Jewish
worshipers, including Muslims in the ban might have at least served as a
deterrence to future violence.
Some price would have been paid by the
perpetrators of religious terror.
Instead, the police took the path that
requires the least work, elicits the least resistance, and results in the
greatest inequity. On three of the Festival days, police closed the Temple
Mount, not to Muslims, but only to Jews and other non-Muslims. Hate and violence
On a recent post-Succot visit to the Temple Mount – I was
one of those turned away during the holiday – the group of Jews I was with had
to wait an hour until we were allowed in. The police felt unable to deal with
more than 25 identifiably Jewish visitors at a time. While we waited for police
approval, hundreds of tourists, mostly from Europe, flowed in without a
When we finally entered, we were immediately greeted by taunting
screams from tens of Arab women. The harassment of Jewish visitors to the Temple
Mount is part of their daily routine. Our group was led by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel,
a member of the battalion of Paratroopers that liberated the Old City and the
Temple Mount in the Six Day War.
Almost immediately, and frequently
during the visit, Rabbi Ariel was spoken to rudely by the police, who didn’t
like where he was standing or how fast or slow he was moving. At the end of the
visit, as were exiting, Rabbi Ariel, who is 74 and battling cancer, was arrested
and roughed up in the process.
What enraged the police and the Wakf was
that Rabbi Ariel purportedly bowed down in a form of prayer.
that the police have of the Arabs on the Temple Mount is palpable. When we were
verbally assaulted by the Arabs upon our entry, the police made not the
slightest effort to quiet them, this in marked distinction from their immediate
and angry silencing of any form of Jewish prayer. Rather, their response was to
quickly move us past the hateful bigots. And when we were again cursed near the
end of our visit, the sole and frightened response of the police was to ask us
It is time the police start enforcing the most basic of
religious rights, for Jews as well as Muslims, that our law enforcement
authorities cease cowering in the face of Arab violence and stop their shameful
hiding behind Muslim religious terror as an excuse for their failure to uphold
The writer is an attorney in Israel and New York.