A sad yet enlightening couple of weeks for Israel and the Middle East
The recent troubles in Israel, and specifically Jerusalem, all started when three Israeli Muslim Arabs hid ammunitions on the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest place in Islam, and used them for the cold bloodied murder of two Israeli policemen. The two Israeli policemen were later identified as being Muslim Druze.
Why do I stress the fact that the assailants were Muslim? It is not out of prejudice, but rather out of bewilderment that three Muslims, and any potential associates of theirs, would find it appropriate and acceptable to carry out a terrorist attack using machine guns, which can be indiscriminate, at the third holiest site in Islam.
As we all know, the terrorist attack was followed by a speedy reaction from the Israeli law enforcements who installed metal detectors to keep people, all people, safe. This reaction is what we have come to expect following terrorist attacks. For example, concert goers in the UK have been told of new security measures following the fatal terrorist attack at this year’s Ariana Grande concert, as have spectators at NFL matches in the USA.
Yet perhaps most surprising of all is that prior to the attack there were no metal detectors in place at the Muslim entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, when there are for all non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount, just as there are for all visitors, Jews and non-Jews alike, when visiting the Kotel (Western Wall). As we all know, metal detectors and security measures have become a fact of life, however unfortunate that is, and there does not appear to be any issue with them anywhere else, be it Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia or the Vatican in Rome.
Despite the above, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, the decision by Israel to protect all visitors to the Temple Mount was met with widespread protest, not just in Israel but across the Muslim world. The unfortunate culmination of these protests and violence, and the incitement by people such as the President of Turkey and Mahmoud Abbas, who amongst other actions called for yet another “Day of Rage”, was the horrific attack on the Salomon family in the Israeli town of Neveh Tzuf – Halamish. An unprovoked attack which left 3 members of the family dead and one critically injured following their Shabbat evening meal.
After the increased violence which internationally included an attack on a Synagogue in Turkey and the Israeli Embassy in Jordan, the Israeli government (rightly or wrongly) acquiesced to removing the metal detectors. Yet apparently this was still not enough and the rioting and protests inevitable continued, as does the inflammatory remarks by Muslim and Arab leaders.
Even in New Zealand, whilst the press has been relatively quiet on the issue, it seems that the prudent measures by Israel to protect all visitors to the Temple Mount, has provided an excuse for the Israel haters to renew their campaign against the Jewish state.
Even a local anti-Zionist Jewish group who can’t bring themselves to use the term ‘Temple Mount’, or refer to the murder of the Israeli policemen or the 3 members of the Salomon family, has used the lasted unrest to jump on the band wagon of unbridled criticism against Israel.
So what is the real essence of this escalation of events focused on the Temple Mount?
Well, we could go back 50 years to the reunification of Jerusalem following the 1967 Six Day War, and Israel’s decision to concede authority of the Temple Mount back to the Jordan through the Waqf of Jerusalem. A noble gesture at the time, and a unique one. Where else in history has a victorious nation who was attacked, regained control of its most holy site of 3000 years, then relinquished control back to those who sought to destroy them in the first place? But let’s fast forward 50 years as the arrangements have not changed. The Jordanians still have the authority over the Temple Mount and Israel controls the security. Even the Hamas leadership in a rare moment of telling the truth admitted that Israel has maintained freedom of worship for Muslims for 50 years. Prior to Israeli control of Jerusalem, freedom of worship for most non-Muslims was restricted at best and for Jews was almost non-existent, especially after the re-creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
So what is it that the Palestinian Arabs are actually protesting about? They are protesting about Israel keeping them safe! They are protesting about Israel ensuring that Muslims can enter the Temple Mount safe in the knowledge that they will be able to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and leave to return home safely after their prayers. Of course, we all wish none of us had to go through metal detectors in our daily lives. Going to the Kotel last November and going through a small booth with airport style metal detectors with Israeli soldiers checking my bags was an inconvenience, but one I was happy to do in the knowledge I could go and pray at the Kotel and leave safely. So why, when it was three Muslim Arabs who desecrated the sanctity of the third holiest place in Islam, are Muslims around the world so enraged at Israel ensuring the safety of their brethren? Why, because in their eyes anything Israel or the Jews do is an abomination and wrong. Any form of Jewish presence in Jerusalem, or any part of Israel for that matter, is seen as unacceptable.
What these events in Israel and across the Arab world have shown is that despite all the rhetoric given to the West, the majority of the Islamic world does not tolerate a Jewish presence in the Middle East, and specifically in Israel. Until there is a change in the view that Jews have a right to self-determination in the land of Israel, our historical, spiritual and religious homeland for the last 3000 plus years, it is difficult to see how there can be a true and lasting peace. Yet whilst the Palestinian Arabs call for yet another ‘Day of Rage’, we will continue to prayer for peace.
Am yisrael chai