Something new, it wasn’t always like this. Increasingly in Israel today, the High Holidays are marked by rocks, riots, violence, teargas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets as Palestinian youth react to politically provocative visits by rightwing Jewish activists who are busy at work trying to turn the Temple Mount into a Jewish prayer space. Throwing rocks at his car, Palestinian stone throwers killed an Israeli Jew the other day on his way home from a holiday dinner. Casting a acrid pall over something so beautiful, this kind of religious activism is like throwing oil on fire. Why this push over the last several years to secure the Temple Mount as a Jewish prayer space? What good does it do Judaism or the Jewish people? If sovereignty means anything, it’s that the sovereign power is the responsible party for protecting law and order and human life. Prime Minister Netanyahu promises to the world to protect the status quo as it teeters on the edge, pushed this way and that way by members of his own government and other “natural allies.”
One hears increasingly the claim based on historical and religious memory that Jews should have the right to pray at the Temple Mount, that Muslims should agree to share holy space. I’m old enough to remember when none of this was an issue. It used to be that religious Jews did not go up the Temple Mount for religious reasons –precisely in order to not violate the sanctity of the place. Now for the sake of pikuah nefesh (saving human life) is reason enough. The right to preserve the Noble Sanctuary as an exclusively Muslim religious site should be recognized by Jews as based on status quo common sense, rights of historical possession, inter-communal modus-vivendi, mutual recognition and compromise, and international and regional agreements. These are political values that used to mean something in Israel before it turned into a Jewish-identity state.