Protest at Temple Mount, October 15 2013.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
On Wednesday morning, for the holiday of Hoshana Rabba (the last day of Succot), 20,000 Jews gathered for dawn prayers at the Western Wall. Waves of worshipers made their way silently on foot in the very early morning twilight through the alleyways of the Old City toward the Kotel.
Then, magically on cue, they belted out the core Shma prayer as the sun crested the horizon. Then they waved their lulavim (palm branches) while singing Hallel (Pslams of praise to G-d), and pounded their aravot (myrtle branches) on the ground in expiation of sin. By 8:30 a.m., the enormous crowd dispersed quietly.
No one would know about this uplifting holiday event from listening to Israel Radio or checking any Israel or global news website. Because there was no violence involved.
Because Jews go to pray at their holy sites, not to riot.
Unlike the Jews described above (of which I was one), Muslim Arabs in, on and around the Temple Mount launched violent demonstrations that same morning, attacking Jewish worshipers and police all around the Old City. That made the news on Israel Radio.
After more than three months of incessant Arab violence in Jerusalem, and three weeks of Muslim violence on the Temple Mount, the police knew to suspect trouble on this Jewish holiday, so they restricted access to the Mount to Muslims over 50 years of age. That served as an excuse for more rioting.
Israel Radio, which often seems to be more a shofar for Israel’s detractors than a national news station, devoted more than 10 minutes of air time to MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad), who bemoaned Israeli “aggression” against the “status quo” – whereby Muslims have exclusive control of, and prayer rights on, the Temple Mount. No rebuttal to this canard was offered.
The previous Wednesday, masked Muslims on the Temple Mount attacked Israeli visitors in what could have become a massacre. Hordes of young men surged out the mosques (in which they had slept overnight to surprise the Jews) and fought a pitched battle with police forces, throwing rocks, firebombs, fireworks, metal pipes and concrete slabs that had been stockpiled in advance. They started fires at the mosque entrances for smoke cover. Police had to drive the rioters back into the mosques and lock them inside in order to prevent a mass-casualty incident.
This is organized thuggery, designed to turn the Temple Mount into the hottest battleground between Israel and the Arab world, and to undermine Israel’s control of the holy city.
Unfortunately, Israel Police are under orders to avoid escalation almost at any cost; and as such, have become serial capitulators to the Muslim muggers and the many radical Islamic forces that are encouraging, funding and defending the brutes on the Mount. Jerusalem District Police head Asst.-Ch. Yossi Pariente ordered his troops to stand down and withdraw last month as Islamic radicals ransacked and burnt the police station on the Temple Mount. And he has taken no retaliatory or punitive action since.
It’s obvious that for fear of Arab world and international response, the Netanyahu government is hesitant to changing the status quo on the Mount; the situation whereby Jews have only limited visitation rights and are all-together forbidden from praying there; while the Muslims claim exclusive religious rights and have rigged the site as an armed camp.
Israel ought to bring about a time-sharing agreement with alternating slots for Jewish and Muslim prayer on the Mount, similar to the arrangement in place in the Cave of Machpela in Hebron. But alas there are no signs that this government is going to do so.
Nevertheless, at the very least the government has a responsibility run the ruffians off the Mount, and punish them for attempting to turn the holy site into an Armageddon battleground.
It can do so in two ways. First, it can close the Mount to Muslim worshipers for 24 hours or 24 days each time the Wakf Islamic trust allows its premises to become a weapons depository or a staging ground for riots. If the Muslims don’t respect their own houses of prayer and instead turn them into forward attack bases, why should we respect their prayer rights? If the Mount is closed to Jews because of Muslim violence, let it be closed to Muslims too for a while.
Second, Israel should make mass arrests of the rioters and fine them NIS 10,000 for each rock thrown, while simultaneously stripping their families of the generous Israeli National Insurance payments they happily collect each month. Israel should slap each of the rioters with a criminal rap sheet, and hand down jail sentences, making it impossible for them to gain the visas they covet for study at American and European universities and for anti-Israel propaganda tours abroad.
Note: Israeli Jews who passively blocked roads in protest against the Gaza disengagement in 2005 were in some cases thrown in jail for 18 months. So why are we going soft on the Muslim hotheads who are violating the holy of holies? The terribly mislabeled Palestinian “Authority” has become an extremist, not a moderate, actor in this matter. Its ministers are spreading lies about Jewish threats to the mosques on the Mount, and encouraging the violence. Perhaps it’s time for Israel to strip Mahmoud Abbas’s radical minions of their travel and other VIP rights, as well.