The crisis on the Temple Mount

By Dow Marmur

Jerusalem (July 23, 2017) – Tensions between Palestinians and Israel have been building up for some time now. The confrontation could have come, and may still come, in the South along the Gaza border. Hamas, which rules Gaza, is losing ground, partly because of closer relations between Israel and the Gulf States. It may use a war with Israel as an attempt to restore its authority, irrespective of who would be the winner.

The conflict area could also have been in the North. Hezbollah, which does the bidding of Iran, hasn’t been doing well of late and may need a war. Prime Minister Netanyahu is said to have admitted that Israel has bombed several convoys of weapons intended for the terrorist organization.

Either or both of these areas may still blow up, but in the meantime the Temple Mount, the perennial tinderbox, threatens to explode. The latest crisis started with the killing of two Israeli police officers. The three Palestinians who carried out the attack were also killed.

Israel’s perennial and legitimate stress on security can at times backfire. Has it this time?

To make sure that Palestinians wouldn’t be able to bring weapons of any kind onto the Temple Mount when ostensibly coming to pray, Israel installed magnetic security checks of the kind you see all over the world nowadays, even at Muslim holy places and in the Vatican. But the Palestinian-Jordanian-Arab authorities responsible for the area objected. Their real reasons are difficult to evaluate: was it because they were not consulted or is it just an excuse to challenge Israeli authority?

Since then there have been several incidents resulting in Israeli casualties and the death of terrorists. People brace themselves for more tragedy.

As many of us suspected and feared, the American initiative hasn’t been able to cool the situation. Will Trump’s envoys redeem themselves now or is his administration mired in so many domestic problems to pay too much attention to the Middle East?

In addition to speculations, there’re also recriminations in Israel: could the government have averted the crisis by either consulting the Palestinians before installing the machines, or choosing the smaller risk of not installing them at all and perhaps avoiding the present crisis? Israel’s perennial and legitimate stress on security can at times backfire. Has it this time?

This page is replete with question marks. Though I read many and often conflicting explanations as to the causes and even more suggestions for remedies, they usually contradict each other, which makes it impossible for ordinary folk to make up our minds. If you trust the government you’ll insist that the action it has taken and its refusal (so far) to back down and remove the security machines is the only correct one. If you don’t, you’re likely to sense that they shouldn’t have been installed in the first place and that even now it’s better for the country to lose face and restore calm than to show its strength by causing more deaths. As usual, I’m among those who find it difficult to trust the current government.

It’s hot in Israel at the moment and the cause isn’t only the weather. Though life in my part of Jerusalem goes on normally, despite the proximity to the Temple Mount, I’m among those who cannot dispel the unease. So I pray that sanity will prevail and lives will be saved. I turn to the Psalmist (122) for solace: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem … may there be well-being within your ramparts, peace in your citadels.”

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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