The problem of intimidation of Jews at the holiest site to Jews has reached a critical stage in the last several years, Yisrael Medad, secretary of the Temple Mount Group, said on Wednesday.
“Over the past two to three years, we saw men first sitting in circles studying the Koran, and then, sooner than later, they sat on pathways designated for Jewish visitors, so they couldn’t walk,” he said.
“Then the women got up and followed us around, screaming and yelling ‘Allahu akbar!’ The police will not push and shove them like they will the men, which is why women frequently lead the mobs.”
The Jordanian government pays between 300 and 500 Muslim women and unemployed men to harass Jews, Medad claimed.
The Islamic Movement’s northern branch, based in Umm el-Fahm, compensates 150 additional provocateurs, he said.
While Medad acknowledged that several Muslims with long histories of stirring trouble on the Mount have been barred from entering it for up to three months, he said that harassment of Jews there has continued to grow.
“What happens now is that when we exit the Chain Gate, they follow us out, screaming and yelling,” he said.
“Last Thursday’s yelling at the woman who was later arrested for saying ‘Muhammad is a pig’ was not on the Temple Mount, but in the Muslim Quarter. So, not only are they on the Temple Mount, but they are following Jews outside to the Muslim Quarter as well,” he said.
Medad said the most practical solution, an idea he raised nine months ago at a meeting with the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, is for police to enforce a policy that restricts Muslim mobs from coming within 20 meters of Jewish visitors to the Mount.
“You want to protest against Jews?” he asked. “Fine, [but] do so at a safe distance.”
The central problem, Medad asserted, is that while Jews are told by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu that there is a status quo – and that it cannot be altered – facts on the ground tell a different story.
“The Arabs are altering that status quo from month to month, and year to year,” he said. “More and more, Jewish visitation is being limited during Ramadan, as well as additional closings due to security threats.”
Medad said that wait times for Jews to ascend via Mugrabi Gate have grown exponentially, while non-Jewish visitors enjoy speedy service.
“The best solution is to give them [non- Jews] 90 percent of the place for visits. I’d be satisfied with 90 minutes to two hours a day in a far corner to pray and be a Jew,” he said.
“You cannot be a Jew at Judaism’s holiest site. You must be an unidentified tourist,” he said.
Although Medad acknowledged that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has cracked down on the extremists who fund those who harass Jews on the Temple Mount, he said much more needs to be done.
According to Jerusalem City Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, the root of the violence and harassment is far more deep-seated than provocateurs on an extremist organization’s payroll.
“The question whether these people are paid is irrelevant,” he said on Wednesday.
“It’s not just another small group of Palestinians who hate Israelis. No. This is the main feeling of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, and especially religious ones. They are convinced that the Israelis want to expel Palestinians from the Mount, that they want to destroy al-Aksa Mosque.”
“Of course they hate Israelis,” he continued.
“If [Jews] were in the position the Palestinians are in, we’d have exactly the same feeling. When it comes to religious issues, Muslims, Christians and Jews, all of them, they don’t know what the meaning of compromise is. They are absolute. So, there are people they hate when they think the people are trying to expel them,” he said.
Margalit said that there is no imminent solution to the decades-long conflict.
“In the near future, there is no possibility of coexistence on the Temple Mount,” he said, adding that only the establishment of a Palestinian state and withdrawal of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories will effectively address the issues there.
“Once we come to a compromise with the PLO on the future of the occupied territories, then we will come to a compromise on the Temple Mount,” he said.
“Under these [present] conditions, there is no chance of a compromise.”
Margalit asserted that Muslims at the holy site do not object to Jewish visitors, but rather to right-wing Jews, “who come up with a political agenda.
“When I was there, I was treated respectfully,” the Jewish councilman said of his numerous visits at the invitation of the Wakf Islamic religious trust, which oversees the compound for the Jordanian government. “They gave me coffee and sweets.”
The problem the Muslim extremists have, he said, is not with Israelis or Jews in general, but with Jews who go up to make “provocations” and “political statements.”
Asked why three Jews have been arrested for slandering Muhammad while there have been no Muslim arrests for slandering Judaism and chanting “Death to Jews” at Jewish visitors, police spokeswoman Luba Samri claimed that the law is enforced equally.
“Police operate under transparent and clear procedures, which include the obligation to respect the law and rights of others unilaterally, wherever they are, and will continue to take action against religious offenders who violate the public space,” she said. “Such enforcement is impartial.”