The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Yet when Israel won the Old City of Jerusalem by force of arms in the Six-Day War, and Jews were at long last able to pray at the site, the Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decreed – in an act of monumental folly – that while Jews might visit the Temple Mount, they were not allowed either to pray, or even to mouth silent prayers while on the Mount itself. For that would “offend” the Muslims. Had the Israelis, from the very first moment, allowed Jews to pray, openly and unapologetically, on the Temple Mount, and having Israeli police enforce that right instead of, as they now do, enforcing a ban on Jewish prayer, the Arabs would have accepted it. When the Israelis stand firm, the Muslim Arabs in the end yield. It is when they detect hesitancy or weakness in the Israelis that they press for more.
Hamas’ current demand is that in exchange for quiet in the south – meaning Hamas would stop launching rockets from Gaza into Israel– the terror group wants Jews to be banned altogether from the Temple Mount. A commentary by Nadav Shragai on this hallucinatory demand is here.
Hamas’ demand that Israel start prohibiting Jews from visiting the Temple Mount “in exchange” for quiet in the Gaza sector, can only come from a terrorist organization that feels immune to repercussions for its untamed behavior – whether this includes firing rockets at southern Israel or carrying out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, Lod or Judea and Samaria. Hamas is presenting an opposite reality: Instead of Israel deterring the terrorist group – Hamas is looking to deter Israel. It has succeeded in doing so in the past.
The organization that has leveraged the modern-day libel of “al-Aqsa is in danger” and turned it into an assembly line for producing terrorist attacks to “save,” “liberate” or “redeem” al-Aqsa from the Jews and Israel who “defile its Muslimhood,” is now taking it one step further.
The myth of “al-Aqsa is in danger” has been useful for the Palestinians; the site has never needed defending from the Jews, but that hasn’t kept many Palestinians from believing that the Jews, “greatest in enmity to the Muslims,” are determined to harm it, and what better way to defend Al-Aqsa than to stab to death, or run over and kill, a few inoffensive Israelis?
Hamas is no longer content with libeling the State of Israel, which it accuses of wanting to destroy the Temple Mount mosques; it is no longer satisfied with knife and car-ramming attacks across Israel “on behalf of al-Aqsa” and its “liberation.” Neither is it placated anymore by lone-wolf stabbers who boasted in their interrogations of trying to commit knife attacks at the Temple Mount entrance to disrupt and prevent Jews from visiting the site.
Now, Hamas is allowing itself to go one step further and put things on the table: No more Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Essentially, it wants to return to the time when Jews were banned from visiting their own most holy sites.
Before the Six-Day War, no Jew could visit either the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. No Jew could visit Rachel’s Tomb at the entrance to Bethlehem, the second holiest site in Judaism. No Jew could visit the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem; it is 3,000 years old and holds 150,000 graves. For centuries, elderly Jews used to come to Eretz Israel so that they might be assured of burial in the Mount of Olives cemetery. No Jews could visit Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs; no Jews could visit Joseph’s tomb near Nablus. Only the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War allowed Jews to again visit those sites; Israel, of course, has behaved quite differently now that it is in control of Judea and Samaria (a/k/a the West Bank) and the Old City in Jerusalem, been scrupulous about allowing Muslims, and not only Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, to visit those sites that they deem holy or important in Islam. The Israelis have been deeply solicitous about offending Muslim sensibilities – hence Moshe Dayan’s forbidding Jews to pray, or even silently mouth prayers, when they visited the Temple Mount.
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Author: Hugh Fitzgerald
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