Palestinian violence has been stirred to the boiling point over the last several weeks, culminating in rioting and bloodshed over the accusation—false and intentionally incendiary—that the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount is under threat from Israel.
This is not the first time Palestinian clerics and politicians have spread the word that the mosque must be protected from the Jews. Such rumors in 2015 led to a wave of stabbings and other acts of violence, sometimes deadly, by young men and women against Israelis. The latest round of violence began two weeks ago, when two Israeli Druze policemen were attacked and killed near the entrance to the holy site by three armed Arab citizens. In response, the government initially closed the prayer area and later installed security cameras and metal detectors to protect all who enter the site. Jordanian officials of the Waqf, the Muslim religious body that oversees the mosque, condemned Israel’s actions and called for a return to “the status quo” and a boycott by its worshippers. This led to deadly riots, and motivated a 19-year-old Palestinian to enter the home of a family in the Jewish community of Halamish, on the West Bank, last Friday night and knife to death Yosef Salomon, 70, and two of his children, Chaya Salomon, 46, and Elßad Salomon, 36, and seriously wound Yosef’s wife, Tova, 68. The family was at Shabbat dinner, celebrating the birth of a new grandchild.
The assailant had written that he was going to act in revenge for the desecration of Al-Aqsa — a desecration that is only real in the minds of those who seek to foster hatred of Jews.
How tragic that a web of lies has led to needless bloodshed. And continues.
Few people realize that when Israel conquered the Old City during the 1967 Six-Day War, euphoric IDF paratroopers initially hoisted an Israeli flag at the Temple Mount. After all, this was the realization of centuries of fervent prayer for the return to Zion. And the Old City, including the Western Wall, under Jordanian control since 1949, was forbidden to Jews. But Moshe Dayan, the minister of defense, ordered the flag to be taken down, and within hours, despite sharp criticism from Orthodox and national groups, announced that Israel would relinquish the site.
“We have returned to the holiest of our places, never to be parted from them again,” he said. “We did not come to conquer the sacred sites of others or to restrict their religious rights, but rather to ensure the integrity of the city and to live in it with others in fraternity.”
That meant the Waqf was to administer the area, and the only people kept from praying there to this day are Jews — a constant source of frustration to many who wish to pray at Judaism’s holiest site. But Dayan’s ruling has been maintained so as to avoid religious conflict between Jews and Muslims.
That was the formation of “the status quo” that the Waqf speaks of having been violated by the Israelis. Not so. And how ironic as well for Palestinian leaders to object to metal detectors. As has been noted this week, Palestinian terrorists, with their plane hijackings, suicide bombings and attacks on airports and other public places, are the very cause for metal detectors becoming part of our lives. And their use at the Temple Mount was to protect everyone in the area, including Muslim worshippers.
This week, fittingly, we will observe Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. Jews around the world fast and recite lamentations, marking the anniversary of the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E. We remember and honor our history, even as we celebrate the beauty and vibrancy of modern Israel, and look to the future with faith. The tragedy among the Arab nations is the continued rejection of the Jewish claim to the land — one that goes back to biblical times. Until they accept that reality they will never share a land they insist is theirs alone.