Israeli flag and Temple Mount .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
How can such a sacred place be such an unholy mess? Instead of a unique place of worship, it is the scene of endless confrontations – between Jews and Arabs no less than among Jews. Instead of being an inspiration for piety, it is the focus of a turf war over who can worship where, from Muslims denying Jews access to the Temple Mount above, to ultra-Orthodox Jews denying the non-Orthodox access to the Western Wall below.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority and its puppet media propagate the dangerously false accusation that Jews plan to seize and destroy al-Aksa Mosque, which has led to what many refer to as a third intifada.
Hamas children’s television shows – part of the PA’s barrage of anti-Semitic brainwashing – have driven Palestinian children as young as 10 to attempt to murder Jews throughout the country. Would-be “martyrs” regularly cite “defending al-Aksa” as their motivation.
An arrangement made immediately after the Six Day War grants Muslims unlimited access and prayer rights on the Mount, while stingily restricting the number of Jewish visitors and forbidding them even from silently moving their lips, lest Muslim guards think they are praying.
The idea was that such a concession was necessary to save lives. Nevertheless, the reality created by then-defense minister Moshe Dayan was an affront to many religious Jews, who prayed every day “that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days.”
Dayan’s first acts on the Temple Mount were to remove the Israeli flag that the paratroopers of Motta Gur had raised on highest shrine and to transfer the paratroop company that was supposed to be stationed on the Mount.
Today order is maintained by Muslim guards who seem to spend most of their time harassing Jewish visitors and stand aside when the police are forced to intervene in order to stop Palestinian terrorists from throwing rocks down on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall.
At the time, it seemed like a good idea. As Dayan stated: “We have returned to the holiest of our places, never to be parted from them again.... We did not come to conquer the sacred sites of others or to restrict their religious rights, but rather to ensure the integrity of the city and to live in it with others in fraternity.”
As a secularist, Dayan believed that the Temple Mount’s chief importance to Judaism was as an historical rather than holy site. What didn’t turn out so well was Levi Eshkol’s appointment of the Chief Rabbinate as the authority for prayer arrangements at the Western Wall.
Without regard to today’s campaign for egalitarian prayer, the logic of which should lead inexorably to change, today’s ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount begs the question why Dayan forbade it there, but not at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where both Muslims and Jews pray and there is also a mosque.
Dayan mistakenly believed that by giving religious sovereignty over the Mount to the Muslims he was defusing the site as a center of Palestinian nationalism.
The High Court of Justice has upheld the theoretical right of Jews to pray on the Mount. In rejecting a petition by the Temple Mount Faithful in 2012, the court ruled that every Jew has the right to pray on the Mount as part of the freedom of religious worship and freedom of expression.
But the court also ruled that these basic rights are not absolute and may be limited where human life is at risk.
One day last week 13 Jews were removed from the Mount for illegally praying, and the Jordanian government immediately warned Israel of “serious consequences” if the status quo is violated. The same morning a group of Muslims was also removed from the site for harassing Jewish and Christian visitors. This is the same Hashemite Kingdom that gave in to a demand by the Palestinian Authority and abandoned plans to install closed-circuit security cameras throughout the Mount, which it had agreed to with Israel as a countermeasure to terrorism.
According to Israeli law, the Temple Mount is under Israeli sovereignty, and Israel has the sole right to decide who has access to pray there. It is time for the government to correct Dayan’s shortsighted mistake by achieving an equitable agreement that would allow Jews to pray on the Mount, just as Jews and Muslims share access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.