A Time and Place for Prayer
reprinted from The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
Most Israelis are not aware that the plateau of the Temple Mount is not the property of the Wakf
A section of the Temple Mount is in danger of collapse, and the Jewish state doesn't seem terribly perturbed.
The place was the location of Abraham's ultimate test of faith, the sacrifice of Isaac. It is where King Solomon built the first Temple (960 BCE) which, after its destruction by the Babylonians in the sixth century BCE, was rebuilt by the returning exiles 70 years later, only to be destroyed again by the Romans.
In the 20th century the descendants of these Jews have returned to the Land of Israel in great numbers; but the Jewish national movement - Zionism - stopped at the Temple Mount's gates.
While religious and historic motifs fueled Zionism, its secular leadership shied away from ascertaining full Jewish rights over the Temple Mount. This held even when the Mount fell under Israel's control as a result of the 1967 war; Israel allowed the Wakf to continue to administer the site.
Moreover, the secular Zionist establishment entered into a dubious alliance with haredi rabbis implementing an old injunction against prayer on the Mount - despite the fact that the beliefs of the latter were generally treated with disdain as representing medieval obscurantism.
Most Israelis are not aware that the plateau of the Temple Mount is not the property of the Wakf and that the Wakf has no legal right to make any changes beyond the area of the old Muslim religious sites situated on it.
Nevertheless, the Wakf has expanded its control of the Temple Mount compound by illegally adding places of worship for Muslims. In recent years, it has also systematically erased much archaeological evidence of past Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.
With a few notable exceptions this Taliban-style behavior elicited hardly any concern from Israeli liberal quarters. Many leftists display great understanding of Muslim sensitivities, but cannot comprehend the longing of a Jew for a physical encounter with the metaphysical nature of the Temple Mount.
PRIMA FACIA, it is incredible that the Supreme Court, which champions the rule of law and human rights for all, has failed to uphold the duty of the state to apply its laws to the Temple Mount and the right of Jews to pray at their holiest place.
It has usually refrained from demanding that the state organs implement the law pertaining to buildings or archaeological artifacts on the Temple Mount.
All petitions to pray on the day commemorating the destruction of the two Temples (Tisha Be'av), or on any other occasion, were turned down.
As for the Shin Bet, by telling the courts in closed camera that Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount would bring about public disturbances by incited Muslims, it has sanctioned the court's directives, allowing the state to relinquish its duty to prevent criminal behavior and to violate the fundamental right of freedom of worship.
The courts rarely seek the opinion of other security experts; these are anyway usually disregarded.
Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state, and the Jews there are in the majority. Moreover, there is plenty of space for Jews to pray in the Temple Mount compound without interfering with Muslim religious practices or Wakf-controlled areas.
It is the duty of the Israel Police to keep public order; for it to cave in to threats of disorder is unacceptable. The police is quite capable of quelling any domestic trouble originating from Israeli Arabs or Palestinians.
By now it is clear that the intifada was premeditated and that it had little connection to Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000. Moreover, the Palestinians have lost much of their influence in Jerusalem and are in no position to interfere with Israeli actions there.
The threat of an international Muslim upheaval is also slim. The Temple Mount - of only secondary religious importance to the Muslim world - has been under Israeli control since 1967, and we have seen no jihad war to free it. Most Muslims, particularly Muslim leaders, are pragmatic enough to respect the current equation of power.
Moreover, most such elites have been successful in suppressing Muslim fanatics, well understanding that demonstrations can get out of hand and threaten their rule. Muslim states actually prefer to see the Jews policing the Temple Mount rather than have another Muslim power take over, particularly when Yasser Arafat is the candidate.
Israeli determination led to the reopening of the Temple Mount for Jews in August 2003, without any trouble. Thousands have visited it since. Jews have every right to not only visit the Temple Mount but also to pray there.
It is high time for the Israeli authorities to put an end to the Wakf's illegal behavior and guarantee the right of Jewish prayer on Judaism's holiest site. This means building a synagogue on the Temple Mount where Jews can pray as their forefathers did.
The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.
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