The final day of Pesach is over, as is Shabbat, and – grateful for a brief hiatus that brought me a modicum of temporary peace – I return now to write about the situation in Israel, which simply must not be permitted to continue as it has been going.
A week ago, on orders from the Islamic Movement, its political wing, the Ra’am party, temporarily froze its participation in the government. Decisions were yet to be made on whether Ra’am would ultimately be required to leave the government totally
Ra’am chair Mansour Abbas delivered a list of conditions for remaining in the government. Primary among his demands was permitting no Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount (Har Habayit).
Allegedly, this is part of the “status quo” that Moshe Dayan had set in place in 1967. But there are several problems with this:
- No matter how this notion is promoted, in reality there is no “status quo” extant on the Temple Mount: for years the Muslims have been blatantly undermining the conditions that existed in 1967. A primary example is that there are now five mosques on the Mount, while there was only one in Dayan’s time. As well the times allocated for Jewish visitation on the Mount have been curtailed, and two of the gates through which Jews were previously able to access the Mount have closed to them, with only one available. The Muslims should not be permitted to pick and choose which conditions must remain the same as they were 55 years ago and which can change.
- The laws of Israel apply to the Mount. And in point of fact, there have been court rulings indicating that Jews could pray on the Mount in situations in which the police determined that it was not a “security risk.” This always seemed offensive to me, because it effectively gave the Muslims veto power: if they riot, Jewish prayer can be stopped. Last October, Judge Bilhah Yahalom, of the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court, ruled that “quiet” Jewish prayer can be held at the Temple Mount as long as it does not violate Israel Police instructions. And in point of fact quiet Jewish prayers have been held on the Mount daily, with a minyan (a religious quorom) for several months now without incident. They go without prayer books so as to not make the fact that they are praying too visible. But notice the presence of a police officer.
There is a major point here that we must never lose sight of: While Dayan apparently had some notion of being respectful of Muslim sensitivities, the Muslims most definitely do not return the favor. They are not interested in sharing. For reasons both religious and political, they seek it all: for If the Temple Mount is exclusively Muslim, it undermines Jewish claims to the Land. The fact that over the years there has been a curtailing of Jewish access to the Mount (only one gate available, fewer hours for Jewish visitation, etc.) makes this imminently clear.
And there is yet another point: Muslim Arabs here “negotiate” by threatening violence.
It is written into Israel’s Basic Laws that “The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings towards those places.”
It is the height of bitter irony, then, that the only place where this Basic Law is not honored is with regard to Jews and the Temple Mount, which is the place that is most sacred to us.
And here we are: More Jews visited the Temple Mount this past year than has been the case since 1967 – there is increased Jewish interest in the Mount. There have been court rulings that indicate that under certain circumstances Jewish prayer can be permitted. And for several months now there has been quiet Jewish prayer on the Mount without incident.
And so, the big question was whether Naftali Bennett was going to roll back the current situation and forbid all Jewish prayer on the Mount in order to assuage Mansour Abbas so that he would remain in the coalition. This is clearly important to Bennett, so that he might continue to act as head of the government. (Even if Ra’am were to remain in, the coalition would not be stable, with only 60 mandates. But if Ra’am were to take its four mandates and leave, the situation would be rendered untenable.)
While the nation waited for Bennett’s decision, he played it another way. On Tuesday, he declared that as of Friday the Temple Mount would be closed to Jews until the end of Ramadan – 10 days, through the evening of May 1. Apparently at some point the Israeli police would be absent from the Mount.
Bennett was not instituting a new practice: For a handful of years now, the Mount had been closed to Jews for the last days of Ramadan. But the way in which he made the announcement was particularly unsettling. He didn’t declare that he was following through on what had been a practice of some years. He simply made the announcement, and he made it shortly after Ra’am had released its demands. Thus, he gave the appearance of caving.
It could be argued that even if the closure had become routine practice, Bennett should have avoided doing so this year precisely to avoid giving the impression that he was bowing to an Islamic Movement demand.
Bennett’s subsequent argument – that he was simply doing what Bibi had done – was particularly foolish. (He has used this argument several times recently.) For his claim in seeking to be prime minister was that he was going to handle matters “better” than Bibi.
From the right-wing in the Opposition, notably the Religious Zionists headed by Bezalel Smotrich, came objections — just as the right-wing had objected to this closure of the Mount to Jews in past years.
Young right-wing activists in the hundreds (estimates are a thousand were involved), disturbed by Bennett’s decision, decided to do a flag parade to demonstrate Jewish presence in Jerusalem. They sought to circle the walls of the Old City and then enter via the Damascus Gate to go to the Kotel. The Damascus Gate has been routinely used as the entry point into the Old City for flag marches headed to the Kotel. But the Damascus Gate has also in recent weeks been a focal point of Arab Muslim rioting.
The position of these activists was that Jews should be able to show their presence in any part of Jerusalem, which is the united capital of Israel. The police, however, refused to grant permission for the proposed route. They suggested an alternative route, which the leaders of the proposed march rejected.
The right-wing groups put out a statement:
“The police are essentially declaring to the citizens of Israel that there is no security in the Old City during this Passover, a worrying statement in terms of morals and security.
“You’ve forgotten your role. We’ll march, you secure [it].”
MK Itamar Ben Gvir – head of the Otzma Yehudit party, which is a faction of the Religious Zionist party – came forward to lead the flag march.
Bennett ordered him not to proceed. Ben Gvir declared that he is a member of the Knesset and does not take his orders from Bennett. While the Religious Zionist Party put out a statement: “A day after closing the Temple Mount to Jews…Prime Minister Bennett is definitively dividing Jerusalem and outlawing the raising of the Israeli flag.”
Bennett then ordered the police to barricade the route of the march towards Damascus Gate. Ben Gvir said that he would comply, but that this was a huge mistake.
“Capitulation and defeat is what causes the missiles…
“This is not about the security of the state, It’s about the security of the coalition.” (Emphasis added)
Hamas then gloated that they had won.
Later on Wednesday evening, Ben-Gvir later tweeted: “Surrender to terrorism invites further surrender and missiles. You chose disgrace; you received disgrace.”
Yair Lapid and others in the government refer to Ben Gvir as a provocateur. I am here to say that I see it as quite the reverse.
I salute Itamar Ben Gvir as a no-nonsense leader, a proud Jew who is prepared to stand up for Jewish rights. He understands with great clarity that concessions do not reduce terrorism, they invite more. In other words, he gets it! And there are painfully few who do among the pantheon of Israel’s politicians.
Our government has moved in a “conciliatory” fashion in a number of respects in recent days – with regard to banning Jewish presence on the Temple Mount until after Ramadan, and preventing a flag march from entering the Old City via the Damascus Gate.
Additionally, the police moved to prevent a gathering for festive prayers, held twice annually at the Davidson Center along the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount plaza by the Association of Israeli Community Rabbis, headed by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu. According to the association the decision was made by police due to concerns that it could “anger” Arabs.
If this sort of action were productive, we would be experiencing a period of relative calm. But let us look at what we have been experiencing: Rioting continues to rage intermittently on the Temple Mount, with throwing of rocks and fireworks, sometimes at the police; in one instance a police officer was hurt. Rocks and fireworks were also hurled down towards Jews praying at the Kotel.
Rioters chanted “Death to the Jews” and “O Khaybar, O Jews, the Army of Muhammad will return!” Green Hamas flags were everywhere in evidence.
- A number of rockets (six in total now) have been launched from Gaza. Two were launched Friday night, and another early Saturday morning. One rocket fell short and landed inside of Gaza (where one person was wounded) and two fell in open fields inside of Israel with no damage done.
This was after one fell short in Gaza on Thursday, one landed near a home in the city of Sderot on Wednesday, and another was shot down by air defenses on Monday.
The Erez Crossing, which allows merchants and workers to enter Israel, was closed on Saturday because of the rockets and will remain closed for the time being.
Perhaps most vile was this:
Jews who visit the Temple Mount follow a path that circumvents the sacred area where the Temples stood. Some who are very pious walk this path without shoes because of the sanctity of the place.
Wednesday was one of the last days before the ban on Jewish visitation went into effect, and there were many Jewish visitors. They found two things:
Bread crumbs – scattered by Arabs with the understanding that observant Jews are not even supposed to see leavened products (chametz) over Pesach.
Shards of glass and thumbtacks to injure the feet of those walking barefoot.
What is shameful is that no action was taken by police or other authorities. Reports David Israel of Jewish Press:
Now, mind you, the Israel Police are very sensitive regarding the feelings of the Arabs who are fasting on Ramadan, and all visitors to the mountain are not allowed to bring food and drink, lest some holy Arab glance at them and become embroiled in lusting for food. But when it comes to sprinkling breadcrumbs in the path of…holy Jews, the police maintain their neutrality. Same with the thumbtacks and broken glass.
Israel cites Bezalel Goren of Beyadenu, who said “the cops were busy making sure the Jews walked in well-packed little groups, with no one lingering behind, and avoid[ing] stopping anywhere, to allay Arabs’ suspicions that they try to pray silently to their father in Heaven.”
This is, indeed, intolerable. Painful. We need a new, right-wing government, like yesterday. Members of the right-wing with whom I am in touch are optimistic that this may be coming soon. Likely I will address this when next I write.
© Arlene from Israel website. https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/