December 4, 2013
by Leo Rennert
There's something grotesquely incongruous about a Dec. 3 front-page article in the Washington Post that goes to great lengths to warn that Jews seeking to pray on Jerusalem's Temple Mount might unleash a third intifada ("At Temple Mount, dreams of prayer raise fears of violence -- Muslims raise alarms as Jews seek right to pray at disputed site" by William Booth and Ruth Eglash).
The basic theme of the piece, which also takes up a full inside page, is that any outbreak of violence would be due to Jewish worshippers who are overstepping their bounds and disturbing regulations that let Jews visit Temple Mount as long as they don't pray there. Now, some Israelis are raising a long overdue question: Why are Jews discriminated against on Judaism's holiest site? After all, nobody contests the sacred Islamic status of Mecca and Medina, along with inalienable Muslim rights to pray there. Also, Jews on Temple Mount are not seeking a religious monopoly. They would be perfectly content to share the right to pray on Temple Mount with Muslims whose Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount is Islam's third holiest shrine.
Where the Post's article goes astray is its dubious predicate that it's okay for Muslims to pray on Temple Mount, but not for Jews, lest public order be disturbed. But disturbed by whom? By intolerant Muslims who insist on exclusivity over Jewish worshippers.
And it is this fundamental Muslim intolerance that is the real threat to civil peace on Temple Mount -- a point missing from the Post's perspective. Jewish worshippers are not threatening disorder on Temple Mount. It's Muslims who stoke threats of violence.
Thus, the Post, while devoting reams of copy, nevertheless fails to mention what happened from 1949 to 1967 when Jordan, not Israel, ruled over Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish shrines. Jews were barred from praying at the Western Wall -- a rank example of religious intolerance. At the same time, Jordanian troops destroyed dozens of synagogues in Jerusalem's Old City. Now, Israel is in charge and mosques are fully protected.
Which does point up the real issue behind tensions on Temple Mount -- one-sided Muslim intolerance.
Actually, there's a perfect example of a civilized solution a half-hour's drive from Temple Mount to Hebron and its Cave of Machpelah -- the burial ground of the Jewish biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. Since Muslims also claim links to Abraham, access for prayers is shared between Jews and Muslims at designated times and on respective religious holidays. Jews can pray there; Muslim can pray there. Voila. Why not on Temple Mount?
That's the real question that somehow gets lost in a massive Post article more interested in tagging religious Jews as disturbers of the peace. The real crux of the problem is a clash of civilizations.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers