Thursday, February 27, 2014

Freedom of worship — for Jews in Israel

Freedom of worship — for Jews in Israel

The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount
A first-of-its-kind debate over the right of non-Muslims to enter, and pray at, the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem was held at the Knesset on Tuesday, with over 30 MKs from both right wing and left wing parties requesting to voice their opinion on the divisive topic. Almost all of the parliament’s Arab members chose not to attend the discussion in protest over the decision to hold it. …

“The Israeli leadership is shirking its calling,” [MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud)] said at the opening of the session, during which he called for Jewish freedom of worship at the site where the first and second Jewish temples once stood.

“Behind the back of our people we gave up on any vestige of Israeli sovereignty at the Mount. Every terrorist organization can wave their flag there, but the flag of Israel? It must not be mentioned. Reciting a psalm is grounds for arrest. Even wearing a skullcap [at the site] is inadvisable by police standards.”

There is no question that the Temple Mount itself is the holiest site in Judaism, far exceeding the Western Wall. But when the Old City was captured in 1967, the decision was made by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to place the responsibility to administer it in the hands of the Muslim Wakf of Jerusalem, although Israel claims national sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Jews are not permitted to pray on the Mount “for fear that they will provoke a violent reaction from Muslims.”

Rabbi Shlomo Goren, IDF Chief Rabbi at the time, opposed the decision and wanted to construct a synagogue on the Mount. Although it is commonly thought that Goren also wanted to blow up the Muslim holy places, it is almost certain that this is a politically-motivated lie (see Shalom Freedman,Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General, ch. 37).

This was once-in-a-millennium opportunity. The Muslims understood that they were defeated, and would have had to deal with Jewish religious rights on the Mount, especially when they it became clear to them that they too would be able to pray there and that their structures would not be destroyed (I’m sure in the first days, they fully expected it — it’s what they would do, after all).
But Dayan prevailed, and the chance was lost.
Freedman wrote,
…by leaving the total religious control of the Temple Mount in the hands of the Wakf, Moshe Dayan in effect taught them that they need not recognize any Jewish rights on the Mount. This … appears to be obviously linked with the failure of the Muslim world to recognize Jewish rights to any part of the Land of Israel. [p. 125]

Since then, the Wakf — as anyone could have predicted — has exercised its authority in ways intended to weaken Israeli sovereignty. For example it has ignored Israeli laws regarding safeguarding antiquities, digging in the area and discarding material of great archaeological significance, especially when it might suggest a historical Jewish presence there.

On a regular basis, riots and other violence are incited by the Islamic Movement, Hamas or PLO officials on the pretext that Jews are ‘storming’ the Mount, preparing to destroy the mosques, or even merely praying there. The Arabs claim that the Second Intifada began because Ariel Sharon dared to visit it (in fact, the Intifada was carefully planned in advance; but the fact that Sharon’s visit can be used to justify a murderous uprising is significant).

Anyone who understands Arab attitudes knows that an enemy that shows fear or even consideration is seen as weak and invites further aggression. So, naturally,
MK Zahava Gal-on of the left-wing Meretz party stated that though she believes Jews have a right to pray at the Temple Mount, such a right must be expressed only after consulting with Palestinian and Arab representatives. Feiglin’s proposal, Gal-on said, was “a match that could ignite the powder keg on which the Middle East rests,” and implementing it “would harm the peace process.”

What a combination of cowardice and ignorance! But that’s the Israeli Left.
There is really no good reason that Jews should not be allowed to share this holy place with Muslims, especially since many Jews died in order to secure the city (even though Dayan, like Gal-on, might have preferred to see it remain in Arab hands). It’s ironic that Israel, the Jewish state, takes pains to provide freedom of worship for Muslims while denying it to Jews.