Josephus witnessed the moment, over 1,900 years ago, when the Temple first began to be engulfed in flames.
He writes in his The Jewish Wars, “...one of the soldiers... snatched something of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the Holy House, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamor... .”
And he adds to his description that, “While the Holy House was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand.”
On Thursday night, July 24, which marked Laylat al-Kadr, the anniversary of the revelation of the first verses of the Koran, when Muslims believe that God blesses everyone, and forgive all sins, a sacking of a building and the burning of its contents on the Temple Mount was repeated.
This time that structure was an Israeli police station located on the raised platform section, north of the Dome of the Rock. An ecstatic crowd of Muslims were the perpetrators.
Despite the great embarrassment, we can be thankful that no policeman was killed or wounded. That is not because back-up forces raced to the rescue, the heroic defense put up by the police barricaded inside the small building or because they managed to escape, some would say flee, through the back windows.
The simple fact is, as Jerusalem Commander Yossi Parienti announced on Channel 10 television, that the police left the building, locking it and walking away earlier on in an orderly fashion.
They did not desert it, he insisted.
Whether the police prematurely fled before the attackers or beat a strategic retreat in expectation of a worse development, the result was one police station looted, ransacked and burned. To top this activity, literally, two masked Arab youth climbed up the roof and planted a Palestinian flag atop the “Islamic-conquered” police station. The expensive security cameras affixed to the station were destroyed.
But there was more damage. Confidential documents dealing with security issues, including identities of suspected Arabs instigators of violence, as well as Jews, were found dispersed at the site, uncollected.
Have the police learned from their errors of planning and judgment? Monday morning this week, once again specially-equipped police officers were required to enter the courtyard following the throwing of rocks as well as the shooting off of Roman candles.
A surprise awaited them: blockades had been set up that halted their advance temporarily. At least five were wounded.
But why are the police, time after time, still surprised? Why is entrance permitted during the evening hours and if so, why is the Temple Mount not cleared toward morning? Why can the rioters gain the benefit of hours to prepare, to bring in dangerous materials? Why do the police to fail, repeatedly, to deal with what one would presume is a simple matter of security? Several members of the force admitted to Channel 2 TV reporter Shimon Ifergan that they were ashamed at the decision that was made and that they were ordered to withdraw from the Mount for their own protection with the full knowledge that the station was the target.
But how is it that given the dangers faced by police, the policy of our law enforcement is to allow such riots to develop, to be the norm? In a response from the Israel Police spokesman’s office, it was noted that over the month of Ramadan, more than 400 Muslims had been arrested on the Temple Mount for disturbing the peace and some 135 charge sheets had been presented to the courts. Nevertheless, the taking of preventive measures seems to be the police’s weak point.
One could argue that the police are caught in the middle. On the one hand, they are responsible for maintaining peace and order but on the other, the political echelon, ever since 1967, seeks to placate Jordan as the holy site’s patron, hoping to offset any real local Arab control, as via the Palestinian Authority, for example. But this paradigm of false coexistence ignores Jewish rights and involves willful blindness to the inroads of the Islamic Movement.
Israel’s government is not obligated to begin the construction of the Third Temple.
However, the government is obligated to not allow the destruction of state property, the trampling of basic human rights of non-Muslims, the provocative, violent behavior of male and female Islamists, the holding of pro-Hamas assemblies and the flying of terrorist flags and planting of banners on the mosque buildings in support of anti-Jewish propaganda.
Exerting Israel’s sovereignty on the Temple Mount, applying the law of the land, promoting religious freedom, protecting the site’s legacy above and below ground are all things the state must do, in the interest of the Jewish character of the state, for the commitment to human rights for all and even for the Waqf authorities who have proven less than capable of administering the site.
The author serves as the secretary of the El Har Hashem NGO which promotes Jewish rights on the Temple Mount.