February 21, 2006

The Temple Mount, One Year Later

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:51 pm by yisraelmedad

August 02, 2004

A year has passed since Internal Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi reopened the Temple Mount compound to visits by Jews. In one fell swoop, his act ended three years of blatant anti-Jewish discrimination, a legal issue Israel’s courts have avoided, rectified a human rights concern hypocritically ignored by all those liberal civil society groups who never miss an Arab plaint, and highlighted the lie that the Temple Mount is a tinderbox flash point of messianic violence.

The Israel police decided, following the October 2000 Arab riots, that Ariel Sharon, then an opposition Member of Knesset, was to be the last Jew to set foot in the open-air esplanade built on Mount Moriah. The move was not out of character because since 1967, all Israel’s governments have acted with abject inferiority as regards asserting any form of sovereignty over Judaism’s most holy site. The extended length of the ban, though, was problematic.

During this past year, however, over 50,000 Jews have visited the Temple Mount, at times, in groups of many dozens. The visitors receive explanations as to the intricacies of the religious and ritual aspects of the Mount, in addition to its history and archeology. Dogged by Waqf provocateurs, seeking to draw the attention of the police to supposed attempts by Jews to pray, the thousands of Jews who have entered have proven that the consciousness of the Temple Mount’s primacy has not been thwarted, neither by hostile Muslims nor by indifferent Israeli officials. The Temple Mount spirit endures.

One cannot, though, escape the suspicion that all these years, the police could have allowed visits, if only the state authorities would have acted as if they are the legal sovereign power they theoretically claim to be.

Nevertheless, the Waqf, the dominating arm of the Palestinian Authority, still exerts an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish subversive force. Unfortunately, Israel continues to kowtow to the Waqf while permitting Islamic fundamentalists from Israel to meddle in affairs. Jewish groups are profiled by the police and media as “extremist elements”. Furthermore, the state allows foreign engineers from Jordan and Egypt to deal with the dangerous structural problems that have developed on the Temple Mount compound.

In September 2003, one side of a wall of the Temple Mount compound, near the Islamic Museum, collapsed, uncovering an area of some 40 square meters of dirt and fill. Adnan Al-Husseini, Waqf director, brazenly stated that this was the result of “Israeli intervention.” The southern wall, too, continued to develop an outwards bulge. While Israeli archeologists believed the bulge and the wall collapse are due to unauthorized Waqf underground construction, the Antiquities Authority cite faulty drainage as the probable cause for the bulge. In either case, however, non-Israeli bodies are dealing with the situation.

Then, in February this year, a wall along the ascent to the Mughrabi Gate, adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza, crumbled after a snowstorm and an earthquake. Dr. Eilat Mazar, an outspoken critic of government policy, said that the lack of professional archaeological treatment of the Mount is symptomatic of a general negligence and apathy in the entire area. To complicate matters more, in April, the Temple Mount’s eastern wall developed its own bulge and a classified government report claimed it, too, is in danger of imminent collapse.

It would seem that Tisha B’Av, with its theme of destruction, still has immediate relevance.

The return of the Temple Mount to the national agenda has unnerved certain circles that assert that this more active role that has developed might be seen as an attempt to negate Arab rights. Another of their concerns is that it might bolster “messianic” elements among Jews, who would want to initiate sacrificial services and ultimately target the mosques, as occurred in the early 1980s. For those circles, the specter of a religious-based conflict is their greatest fear.

They must be pleased, then, in the wake of Hanegbi’s recent warning that Jewish extremists may attack on the Temple Mount. However, the warning lacked specific details and, as the minister admitted, was not based on concrete intelligence but “sensed”. This is certainly no reason to place anyone in administrative detention.

Another form of a “lack of intelligence” was Yasser Arafat’s refusal to acknowledge that Jewish Temples existed on Mount Moriah, which shocked and annoyed even US president Bill Clinton at Camp David II. In a Ha’aretz interview in June, asked about the issue of Jewish prayer at the “Haram E-Sharif”, on the Temple Mount, Arafat said, “It is clear what I had accepted in Camp David: the Wailing Wall, the Jewish Quarter, with a passage freely under your control.” Rejecting, thus, any link between Jews and their sacred site, Arafat adopted an anti-Jewish discriminatory approach of “the Wall below, not the Mount above.”

Luckily for Israel, an Egyptian, Ahmed Mahmad Oufa, wrote last August that the Koranic verse mentioning Mohammed’s “night journey” has nothing to do with Jerusalem. The entire Moslem claim to Jerusalem and El-Aksa, Oufa asserted, is based on a mistake. Yet Israel’s Jewish pro-Palestinians reject that view.

Tisha B’Av, then, this year, with all the positive changes, still remained a day of mourning, one of downtrodden nationalism.

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