Temple Mount Incendiary (Al Aksa)


This should terrify everyone and everyone should understand precisely which political elements are responsible for heating things up in Jerusalem. Recent events call Israeli stewardship over the eastern part of the city into serious question. Examples include moves afoot in the Knesset to propose legislation by rightist parliamentarians like Miri Regev who would permit Jewish prayer up on the Temple Mount. There’s no chance the legislation would actually pass, but rightwing religious Jews are putting pressure on the old status quo on the Temple Mount that has kept the peace, more or less, since 1967. The government has done nothing to tamp down the tension. It only seems to know how to raise the temperature. Over the holiday of Sukkot, organized groups of rightwing Israelis, whose religious intentions were political in nature, went up to visit the site. All this occurs against a backdrop including new settlement construction bids approved by the government. Extreme religious nationalist elements have bought up properties in sensitive neighborhoods like Silwan. There has not been a quiet week since the abduction murders last summer of the Israeli and Arab boys. All it takes is one spark—literally. About a recent altercation on the Temple Mount, Alex Fishman writes here at Ynet. Protestors threw Molotov cocktails from inside Al Aksa mosque. Israeli police responded with riot-dispersal means. According to Fishman, “Sparks flew everywhere. All that remained was for the carpets to catch alight, [and] the mosque to go up in flames.”


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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22 Responses to Temple Mount Incendiary (Al Aksa)

  1. Mordy says:

    I cannot fault Jews who want to visit the holiest site in Judaism. As far as I’m concerned the fault lie with the people so against ‘Judaization’ of the Temple Mount that they’d throw Molotov cocktails from their mosque and risk setting it aflame.

    • David Levy says:

      Mordy – it can’t be faulted only if tribal desires trump peace desires. If people want peace, they will not push for this.

      • Mordy says:

        I think that coexistence without Jews having access to prayer at the Temple Mount is not peace. It is some kind of cold coexistence, which is certainly better than a hot war, but not peace at all.

      • zjb says:

        I think this raises the bar on what constitutes peace to an impossible level, perhaps messianic, certainly not practical. It sounds like a disaster.

    • zjb says:

      I think the proposals to change the status quo on the Temple Mount provide the incendiary context.

  2. IH says:

    This is deserving of a more nuanced discussion. I note for example, Ruth Calderon’s brief comment on the subject at JTS in April 2013. Cued to 1:09:53 for about 30 seconds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=942d_Efn3Wk#t=4193

    • David Levy says:

      My nuance would be as follows: I hope that there is a day when the cold peace would thaw sufficiently that both sides would be willing to permit each other to pray there. I don’t see that thaw happening anytime in the next 50 years. It would require a degree of relativism in both religious and tribal matters, on both sides, that I do not see right now among those in the public ascendancy. Nonetheless, Jews would be wise, in my opinion, to be exceedingly patient on such matters. Storming the gates and demanding rights there is exactly how to bring about a mass explosion, and lose any support that is left in the world (small though it is). So it takes another 50 years. If Israel can survive that long, it will be miracle enough and maybe an opening would be found for such lesser matters, as compared to the survival of the country.

      • Michael says:

        Would you say that to black civil rights activists in the 60’s, demanding equal rights with the whites? That they “would be wise, in my opinion, to be exceedingly patient on such matters”? Or today to women who advocate equal payment for equal jobs? I doubt it. Somehow being “patient” and “wise rather than just” is a “right” reserved for the Jews exclusively.

      • David Levy says:

        I don’t think that the comparisons you are making are at all valid. In Israel, fortunately, Jews are the majority and have the greater power, even if that is not the case in the broader middle east. The cases to which you compare are ones of groups that have less power. It’s a hugely important distinction. In these cases, the greater and majority power needs to be sensitive. It is forever the central tragedy in Jewish history that Jews view themselves (ourselves) as the underdog, while others do not view Jews that way. Only within the boundaries of Israel do I agree with others.

        Strategically, it is an enormous error for Jews in Israel to start a completely unnecessary fight over this. Nobody in the world will see their point of view and it will likely spark an explosion.

      • Michael says:

        So it’s OK to discriminate a majority? That is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start. Say, that a male is excluded from a job (like a waiter) because the employer is seeking a female waitress. Is that OK just because males are the more powerful group in a society?

        I wonder what the author of this blog can say on this topic – can the Jewish philosophy justify discriminating a majority just because it has more power?

      • David Levy says:

        I didn’t say that it’s ok. Rather, that sensitivity and negotiations are the way to change things when you are the power.

      • Michael says:

        But those who want more access for Jews at the Temple Mount are a small, discriminated minority – its the powerful Israeli government that does not grant them access and freedom of worship there. So according to your logic, they are entirely in their right to make a fuss about the injustice inflicted upon them, aren’t they?

      • David Levy says:

        I don’t know what their “right” is, other than that making a fuss ought to be everyone’s right everywhere….within the confines of the law (assuming that the law is just). I just wish they wouldn’t do it. It is so unnecessary and so clearly provocative…..and will, without question (in my mind, at least), lead to additional acrimony and hatred.

        The only potentially fruitful way forward toward long-term relationship stability is discussion that, eventually, would lead to some shared understandings; even if it takes decades. Endless patience is required. There should be no hurry on these matters, after a couple of millenia in the diaspora. After all, as I understand it, the concept is that Israel will be around for a very long time, this time. You know, many centuries and more. The path of direct conflict and showdowns is one in which the violence/hatred cycle never ends….or it does end, but very badly for the Jews.

        Negotiating their way into the Temple Mount is a reasonable goal and method. Storming it and screaming about it is not the way. It just isn’t.

      • Michael says:

        As I was saying in the beginning, I don’t see this argument being applied to other groups who struggle for their rights. Its a fundamental right in a democracy for people to demonstrate, get support of parliament members etc. etc. . You may disagree with their struggle, you may reject the notion that they are being discriminated, but if you are pro-democracy and freedom, you should fight like a lion for their right to peacefully advocate their goals.

        Compare this to Rosa Parks, a private citizen “tired of giving in” to discrimination. These Jews see themselves discriminated against and are tired of giving in. If the sight of people claiming their rights generates an animosity amongst narrow-minded fanatics is in no way an excuse to continue discrimination.

      • David Levy says:

        It just isn’t a Rosa Parks sort of thing, no matter how many times you make that comparison.

      • Michael says:

        Its a group of people who feel discriminated upon and fight the injustice. By peaceful means. Its upon the government to allow them the freedom to exercise their legitimate right to peaceful protest. The fact that it might upset others is of no importance. Otherwise the government would have to ban a gay pride event in Jerusalem on similar grounds.

    • AC says:

      Unfortunately, Caledron has had trouble from the beginning in figuring out how to include Palestinians in her vision of Israeli identity, which is almost exclusively Jewish.

  3. Myron Joshua says:

    the issue is context and motivation- not the right of prayer, 1. Context- in the present political context even the purest motivations are perceived (at best) as suspect. 2. Motivation- there is a difference between the “desire” to pray and the “right” to pray. (Claiming “right” already politicizes an act which in its essence should be holy and beyond.) Using the prayer and the holy as a tool to prove and demonstrate national sovereignty and to “put the Moslems in their place” turns the holy end to a means that is a violence to the very vision of Jerusalem.
    it is not coincidence that rumor has it that Rabbi Menahem Froman held part of the wedding of one of his children on the mount.
    the path to the mount is via the path sensitivity and understanding- The mount is not a path to earthly (exclusive) sovereignty.

  4. Myron Joshua says:

    Sharing sites of worship and even very holy sites of worship does not require a “relativism” beyond what already exists. The challenge is the mistrust among Arabs AND the internal confusion in the “minds” of too many Jews that confuses the longing for the Temple and the longing for Zion that is actively fulfilled in Zionism. When the desire for the Temple becomes part of the Zionist dream it calls out for the fire to come out of the Holy of Holies and destroy, as it did the two sons of Aaron.

  5. IH says:

    Well, if this discussion continues I will chime in with my wife’s astute observation that there seems to be a double standard — in several directions — in regard to people’s attitudes to Women of the Wall and the attitudes to Jews praying on the Temple Mount.

    On a more scholarly note, there is an interesting paper by Motti Inbari from 2007 that provides some useful analysis: http://works.bepress.com/motti_inbari/4/.

    • Michael says:

      One discriminatory injustice does not justify another. What if a Jews who supports Women of the Wall wants to pray at Temple Mount? What if a Women of the Wall wants to pray there?

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