(October 14, 2015 / JNS)
Rabbi Yehudah Glick, an Israeli activist seeking to increase Jewish access to the Temple Mount, offers the following commentary on the security situation in Israel:
It’s hard to imagine a single Israeli paper would be willing to publish an op-ed blaming the Pride Parade participants for the murder of Shira Banki (of blessed memory). It could easily be argued that with the heightened sensitivities of Jerusalem, and the potentially explosive situation, holding a Pride Parade in the city’s streets amounts to provocation, and the organizers of the event cannot wash their hands of the young girl’s death.
Why is it that when discussing the rights of Gay Pride Parade marchers we can wholeheartedly and unhesitatingly blame the killer himself (and in the extreme, perhaps the home in which he was raised), but when it comes to the rights of Jews to visit the Temple Mount, it is perfectly acceptable to incite violence against the visitors?
The truth must be told, for it is clear as day, and it must be told without hiding behind various “politically correct” excuses: the self-serving Arab propaganda succeeds again and again, like the pig which holds out its split hooves to prove how kosher it is, in convincing the general public of a lie in which there is not a grain of truth.
The fight for human rights on the Temple Mount is legitimate and justified like no other. There is no other place in the world where an individual would be arrested on suspicion of swaying and moving his lips. The discrimination against anyone who is not Muslim on the Temple Mount cries out to the heavens.
This battle is being conducted in a manner appropriate for members of the public in a democratic country, utilizing the tools legally at the disposal of citizens: the courts, the media, including social media, the political arena, public opinion, public protest and so on. There is nothing more legitimate in a free country than to work towards altering the status quo when done through legal means.
This is not solely the fight of Jews. Millions of Christian tourists visit Israel each year from around the world, Bible in hand, and they, too, cannot understand how the holiest site on Earth, according to the Book of Books, is being administered by extremist representatives of a single religion, who use violent means, including actual terror, to impose fear upon the public.
Most Muslims worldwide cannot even understand it. Our stance is supported by thousands of Muslims across the United States and Europe, and countries like Turkey.
But here, it seems, most Israelis accept the racist premise that by nature, Arabs are unable to control themselves and are predestined to be violent. They have no choice in the matter, and when they see a Jew wandering freely, far from the mosque, in an area 25 times that of the Kotel plaza, they must respond with violence and terror. We must call a spade a spade—this is a case of unwarranted incitement against law-abiding individuals engaged in a legitimate protest.
To strengthen this claim, it is important to examine the reality at the Temple Mount:
Anyone who claims the (holy?) status quo at the Temple Mount has remained unchanged since 1967 simply is not familiar with the reality. When it comes to the Temple Mount, there is no term more bandied about than “the status quo”. Yet the Mount has not seen a single day in which such a status quo has been maintained. Here are just a few examples:
Over the years, Muslims have damaged sensitive areas filled with archaeological remains, including constructing two new mosques without permits.
The Temple Mount used to be open to non-Muslim visitors on Shabbat (Saturday), a practice which was cancelled in 2003. Likewise tourist visits to the mosques situated there, commonly permitted in other mosques around the world.
Jews were permitted, until two years ago, to visit the Temple Mount in groups of up to 100, like other tourists, but in the past year the police have enforced an obscene limit of only 15 Jews per group. Each group spends an hour sitting unsheltered in the sun, waiting for the previous group to finish its visit.
After the Six-Day War, Jews were prohibited from praying in a quorum on the Temple Mount, but there were no restrictions on bringing religious articles to the site. Over time, the matter has become an obsession, from forbidding religious items to examining visitors’ wallets for small printed prayers, forcing women to remove earrings in the shape of a menorah and arresting a Jew on suspicion of muttering.
Over the past five years, as Israeli police turned a blind eye, the Islamic Movement has taken over control of the Temple Mount, through the activities of the Mourabitat and Mourabitoun, groups which react violently towards anyone who does not meet with their approval, whether that person is a Jew, a Christian tourist, or even a Jordanian or Palestinian Authority representative they do not like. It began with shouting, moved on to intimidation, lynching attempts, and continued with throwing chairs, shoes or stones before reaching the stage of tossing firecrackers.
I did everything in my power to prevent this bloodshed.
I could have brought dozens of other examples of infringements of the status quo against non-Muslims which happen every day. So what do the Arabs mean when they cry out these days that Israel has “dared” to break the status quo?
Now, they are correct. Prior to the Jewish new year, Israeli police, under the direction of the new minister Gilad Erdan, decided to alter the status quo which had held for the past three years. A status quo in which, before Jewish holidays, the mosques would be turned from houses of prayer to storehouses of weapons requiring the police to block the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount.
Additionally, as a preventative measure, they blocked the arrival of buses hired by the Islamic Movement whose passengers had come with the sole purpose of “protecting” the holy site from the Jewish “enemy” using violent means. This is the status quo which the police dared to upset. This and no other is the reason for the recent wave of violence.
Yet, perhaps after all this, we are still guilty?
The unequivocal answer is that not only are we not guilty, but we are the only ones responsible enough to call for an immediate halt to all violence taking place increasingly on the Temple Mount.
My friends and I begged the police to act when the matter was still at the stage of name-calling. We wrote letters to everyone we could, turned to the media and Knesset committees, to the offices of various ministers and security officials, explaining that if the situation was not dealt with in a timely fashion, while it was still simmering, it would ignite and result in serious violence. Our cries fell on deaf ears.
The police ridiculed us on every possible stage. They made us out to be provocateurs, agitators and fear-mongers. They told us that just like the violence bothers us, our presence on the Temple Mount bothers the Arabs. It is like a woman who complains to the police that her husband hits her and the policeman answers, “You must understand, just as his beatings bother you, your face bothers him.”
And now, as everything we predicted is coming to pass before our eyes, irresponsible people are stepping forward with the gall to accuse us and incite against us for causing this bloodshed. I scorn the claim, and say with absolute certainty: we are blameless. Not only are we blameless, but I will stand one day before my Maker with a clear conscience and tell Him: I did everything in my power to prevent this bloodshed.
The only blame I am willing to accept is that I did not do enough to bring more Jews to the Temple Mount in order to accustom the public to the fact that Jews are a natural part of the scenery at the site.
Despite all this, we continue to call upon the Prime Minister to establish a special commission to examine the matter and its implications, just as the Shamgar Commission which examined the massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and set guidelines for preventing friction at the site, guidelines which have been implemented successfully for over 20 years.