As pundits who profess to understand the Arab-Israel conflict regularly accuse Israel of 'Disproportionate response", it would be interesting to know whether these opinion makers consider the current outbreak of attacks on Jews in Jerusalem to be a "proportionate" response to activists who wish to pray on the temple Mount.What is all this verbal and physical violence about? The current "status quo" permits Jews to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray while there. Rabbi Yehuda Glick is known as a leader of a group that wisely or unwisely advocates allowing Jews to pray there. The spark leading to the present mayhem in Jerusalem occurred on October 29 when an assailant identified Glick as the well- known activist, then shot him in the chest. As it is useful to know what we are talking about let's look at the background. The Temple Mount, believed to be the site of the First and Second Temples, is the holiest place in the world for Jews. It is also believed by Muslims that about 550 after years the destruction in 70 CE of the second temple, Mohammed flew to this site on a winged horse named Buraq and then flew to heaven to plead with God before returning to Mecca. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand on the site today and it is the third holiest place for Muslims In 1948 Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem where the Temple Mount is located and annexed it in 1950. The annexation was considered illegal and void by the Arab League and all countries except Britain, Iraq and Pakistan.During its rule Jordan refused to honor its undertaking in terms of clause VIII 2 of the 1949 Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement to allow free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Jews were barred from the Old City and denied access to the Western Wall and other Holy Places. Synagogues were destroyed and tombstones were used as paving and in construction of latrines. Christians were also adversely affected. By contrast, when Israel took control of East Jerusalem after the 1967 six day war, Israel showed extreme respect for the Islamic religion. In a conciliatory act Moshe Dayan ordered removal of the paratroopers who had liberated the Mount and lowering of the newly raised Israeli flag. He made arrangements known today as the "status quo" which provided that the Islamic Waqf would continue to manage the site while Israeli police would be responsible for security. Non Muslims including Jews would be allowed to visit but strangely and perhaps naively JEWS WOULD NOT BE PERMITTED TO PRAY THERE.Although many changes have occurred in practice to the status quo, some religious Jews who revere this sacred site are vexed by the remaining condition prohibiting Jewish prayer on the Mount and a group of activists led by Glick have for years made a practice of praying silently there. In a TV debate last year Glick said “I go up to Temple Mount almost every single day, and I’ve been doing it for 25 years.I don’t do that for any other reason than just going to the holiest place in the world where a Jew is obligated to go. We are talking about sharing, tolerance, respecting one another. In what world could these things have anything to do with aggravating and igniting?” Whether or not we agree with Rabbi Glick's actions and even if we consider them to be provocative, they don't by any stretch of imagination resemble the hysterical descriptions by some opinion makers. In an incendiary speech in Ramallah on the 10th anniversary of the death of Arafat, PA President Abbas warned against changing the status quo despite PM Netanyahu's repeated declaration that the status quo will not be altered. Moreover, when Israel closed entry to the mount for one day in an effort to stem the violence, Abbas called this a "DECLARATION OF WAR". He referred to the actions of Rabbi Glick and other activists who wish to share in praying, tolerance and respecting one another, as extremists who “CONTAMINATE” the Temple Mount. It is worrying that US Sate Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and Secretary Kerry seemed to accept these incendiary reactions as unworthy of comment, not even as unhelpful to the peace process.This "disproportionate" reaction is remindful of the murderous fury provoked by the Danish, Jyllands–Posten Muhammad cartoons in 2006 that cost 200 deaths accompanied by violent attacks on diplomatic missions, churches and Christians. Instead of then forcefully rejecting this murderous violence, politicians and mainstream media on the whole treated the events with tolerance and understanding.
Published with permission of San Antonio Express News Surely the rational response should be civil discourse. And there is indeed much to discourse about on this issue. To add to the complexity, some Rabbinic authorities prohibit visits by Jews to the Temple Mount out of concern that they may inadvertently enter areas, the precise localities of which are unknown, that are expressly forbidden to Jews except under special circumstances.