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26 Sep, 2013 14:37

Will Jewish incursions at Temple Mount provoke a new intifada? 

Will Jewish incursions at Temple Mount provoke a new intifada? 

Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem, a place of profound significance for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, is undoubtedly the most explosive piece of religious real estate in the world.

For Jews, Temple Mount is believed to be the place of Abraham’s binding of Isaac, as well the site of the first two Temples. For Muslims, who call it the Noble Sanctuary, it is the place from where Mohammad ascended into heaven. For Christians, it is where the young Jesus dazzled the Jewish theologians with his knowledge of the Torah; it was also from where he prophesied the destruction of the temple, which came to pass at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD.

Some may be surprised to know that this 37-acre plot of sacred land, smack in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, is controlled by Muslim authorities, an arrangement that has worked admirably so far, considering it is no easy balancing act.

After Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank following the Six-Day War of 1967, the Israeli government returned control of the Temple Mount, which since the late 7th century has been the site of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, to Muslim authorities. Ever since, Muslims have been content to worship at Al-Aqsa above and Jews at the Western Wall below, an ancient remnant of the Second Temple (the prophesied construction of the Third Temple plays a large part in this ongoing story, with Orthodox Jews saying the structure can only be rebuilt following the arrival of the Jewish Messiah). 

The reasons why the arrangement has worked, writes Giles Frazer in The Guardian (“An Israeli claim to Temple Mount would trigger unimaginable violence,” September 13), is that “according to Jewish law, it would be wrong for any Jew to walk over the site of the Holy of Holies,” At the same time, however, Muslims forbid any sort of “outside” worship at their mosque, which ranks third in importance among Muslim holy sites.

Israeli Jews pray outside the Temple Mount, known to the Palestinians as the al-Aqsa compound (AFP Photo / Marco Longari)

On Sept. 28, 2000, the world got a first-hand understanding of the fierce passions that surround the site when Ariel Sharon, surrounded by a heavy security detail, paid a visit to the Temple Mount. Despite Palestinian assurances that there would be no discord as long as Sharon did not enter any mosques or be seen praying publicly, violent protests immediately erupted, thus sparking the second intifada. 

Since then, only a tiny minority of Jews have attempted to breach the agreement, arguing – more from a political stance than a religious one – that it is their right to enter Temple Mount in order to pray. However, due possibly to the “settlement mentality” among more Israelis, an increasing number of Jews – and against the sound advice of the majority of Orthodox rabbis on the subject – are demanding access to the Temple Mount, which, again, is believed to be the future site of the Third Temple (although some say the exact location of the structure is not known).

Just this month, hardline Likud politician, settler and Knesset member Moshe Feiglin – who regularly says that Israel should seize control of the West Bank and Gaza – called on Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech in New York to restore Jewish sovereignty over the sacred site. In March, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, who calls for the rebuilding of the Temple, paid a visit to the site as a "tourist."  

Just this week, Israeli police were forced to prevent Jews from entering Temple Mount, fearing Palestinian unrest.

Israeli riot police clash with Palestinian demonstrators at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound following Friday prayers on March 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Ahmad Gharabli)

The Jerusalem District Police decided Tuesday to close Temple Mount off to Jewish visitors, citing "intelligence indicating [Palestinian] intentions to disturb the peace" in the area, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Police have arrested at least two dozen Palestinians involved in clashes with Israeli police at the site since the Jewish New Year at the start of September. Muslim worshipers have also been prevented from entering the area, amid fears of unrest.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Movement has been increasingly protesting the visits of Jewish worshipers to the Temple Mount, saying that such visits are antagonizing the local population to unrest.

This is an incredibly dangerous scenario for not only the region, but the entire world. According to Frazer, if they do gain access to this site, “a billion Muslims worldwide will go ballistic” and there would be “unimaginable violence.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.