May 9, 2013
With all that remains disturbing (and I'll get to it), there are also good things happening within the government and the Knesset. Good people who are ready to fight for Jewish rights.
Yesterday, during an AFSI reception at the Knesset, Deputy Minister of Transportation Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) shared her intentions to fight for the right of Jews to pray on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount).
While at a celebratory plenum session of the Knesset, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein (Likud) expressed the hope that the issue of Jewish prayer on Har Habayit would be resolved by the next Yom Yerushalayim:
And the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee held a special meeting about Har Habayit in honor of Yom Yerushalayim. Elhanan Glatt, director general of the Ministry of Religious Services, told the Committee that his office was examining ways to arrange for Jewish prayer on Har Habayit.
Yes, and yes! Jewish prayer on Har Habayit. Enough voices speaking out so that one begins to hope that maybe, maybe at long last there will be action.
It's such a no-brainer -- that Jews should be able to pray at the place that is holiest for them, the site of the Temples. And an outrage of such immense proportions that we Jews cannot pray there.
There is, of course, a convoluted history to this situation, as there often is with what goes on here. No matter what their claims, the issue for Muslims regarding Jewish prayer on Har Habayit is political and not religious.
If Israel were not a power with which they contend, you think they'd care if Jews prayed there? For a long time, before Israel liberated Har Habayit, the Muslims paid it little heed. Their holiest city is Mecca, with Medina second. But let Jews have it?? Never.
Perhaps the comment by MK Ibrahim Sasour (United Arab List -Ta'al) during yesterday's Knesset Internal Affairs Committee meeting says it all:
"Jews in Israel need to understand that one day Jerusalem will return to Palestinians and Muslims. The solution is to maintain the status quo."
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud), Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, explained the situation:
"The Wakf's problem isn't prayer, but the sovereign symbolism of prayer. As far as they are concerned, [Jewish prayer] eats away at the total Muslim rule over the Temple Mount." (Wakf = Islamic trust, an administrative body)
"Total Muslim rule over the Temple Mount" in a Jerusalem that is under Israeli sovereignty?
Very quickly after we liberated Har Habayit in 1967, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan made an exceedingly foolish decision. Meeting with members of the (Jordanian-controlled) Islamic Wakf, he ceded day to day administrative control of the Mount to the Muslims. This was done, presumably, as a "good-will gesture," (a loaded term) following the war.
Whatever Dayan's "good-will" in the matter, and hopes of cementing good relations with the Arabs, it has to be noted that he was not a religious man. Thus, he viewed Har Habayit as having "historical" significance and not religious -- his own words make this clear. For him, personally, a Jewish presence on the Mount had limited import.
"Day to day administrative control" does not mean sovereignty, however. This was retained by Israel. And this is what is constantly being undermined by the Wakf, which acts as if it does have full sovereignty there.
Part of Dayan's mistake was in assuming that there would be an appreciative attitude on the part of the Muslim Arabs for what he had acceded, and that they would sit with Israel in a cooperative spirit. He did not understand the Arab mentality, did not anticipate what was going to transpire, and did not imagine, certainly, that the Muslims on the Mount would do everything they could to destroy archeological artifacts that document the ancient Jewish presence there. Dayan greatly valued such artifacts.
At any rate, Dayan did not permit the Israeli flag to fly on the Mount (stupid, stupid, stupid) and was opposed to Jewish prayer there. IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren attempted to institute prayer, holding a service on the Mount on Tisha B'Av. Dayan intervened and the status quo of no Jewish prayer on the Mount was on its way to being established.
There are, I must note, further complications: Because Har Habayit -- the site of the Temples -- holds special sanctity, and because it cannot be determined with absolute certainty where the Temples stood (in the location of the Dome of the Rock, it is commonly thought), and because there are those who believe that the Shekhinah (presence of the Almighty) still resides there, some rabbis believe it should be forbidden to Jews to ascend to the Mount. Others maintain that ritual immersion is necessary before ascending.
Certainly, when ascending the Mount, a Jew should be guided so as to avoid walking where it is believed that the Temples once stood.
It is my observation that over time more rabbis have begun to permit ascension to the Mount. The religious issue cannot be separated from the political one, and the presence of Jews on the Mount in order to establish Jewish rights to this holiest of places is of great importance.
The Wakf, when Dayan dealt with it, was Jordanian-controlled, and remained so for many years. But with the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Palestinian Arabs asserted themselves, gaining further influence over matters.
Then with the peace treaty with Jordan in 1994, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "Jordan conditioned its signature on inclusion of a clause which gave Amman a preferred status in future Israel-Arab talks about the Temple Mount." (See: The Political Role of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in the Temple Mount Question)
It is not clear precisely how extensive this "preferred status" is, but this is particularly troublesome. I have observed instances in which Israeli decisions that impinged even indirectly on Temple Mount issues were influenced by Jordan.
In particular that was the case with regard to the building of a permanent bridge to the Mughrabi Gate of the Mount. Israel was going to build that bridge in 2011, and then halted when Jordan protested. One had to wonder why the prime minister was so intimidated by Jordanian demands -- especially with regard to a gate that approaches the Mount but isn't even on it.
For some period of time, I've been told, there were actually two Wakfs -- the Jordanian and the Palestinian Arab, with rivalry between the two. But very recently the PA acceded authority to Jordan.
And just in the last couple of days, we've seen tension with Jordan over Mount-related issues:
For Yom Yerushalayim, the number of Muslim worshippers on the Mount was limited so that there would be opportunity for Jews to ascend for celebration of the day. What is more, the Mufti was detained for a period (ultimately not arrested) because of suspicion that he was involved in throwing a chair at Jews on the Mount.
This so enraged the Jordanians that their Parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling for the Israeli ambassador to be sent back and their ambassador to Israel to be called home. President Shimon Peres then rushed to reassure them that all agreements on holy sites would be respected, and that we should be friends, etc. etc.
What he actually said -- "We respect all religions' holy places" -- was meant to assure the Jordanians that Arabs would have access to the Mount. But it could, however also mean that we will respect OUR rights to Jewish holy places.
But never mind....
As to our Jewish rights to pray on the Mount, the High Court of Justice has upheld that right (#2955/07). There is a proviso, however, that the police can restrict this right for reasons of security. What has happened then is that the Israeli police have determined that in order to avoid Arab unrest, riots and who-knows-what, it is better to deny Jews their rights to pray. It is actually Israeli police who will arrest a Jew who attempts to pray on the Mount.
Would Arabs riot if Jews attempted to pray there regularly? No doubt, as things stand now. But there comes a point at which it doesn't matter. Jews cannot be routinely denied essential rights out of fear of what the Arabs will do, or say about us. This must be worked out, or confronted.
This issue of asserting Jewish rights on Har Habayit is only one of several involving our sovereignty in the land of Israel. I will be returning to this topic again and again.
Before moving on to other subjects, however, I want to tell a short, related story:
I mentioned above the special meeting yesterday of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee. Before the Committee began its business, a short film in honor of Yom Yerushalayim was played, which showed the liberation of Har Habayit by Israeli paratroopers in 1967.
Some Arab Knesset members who were present grew incensed, saying that the film was "insulting," and demanding that it be stopped.
When I first learned of this story, via a news report, it was not clear if their demand was met. I investigated, and learned, to my considerable relief, that it was not, and that, in fact, Jewish MKs turned and yelled at the Arabs.
I won't deal here with the issue of what Arabs who think thus are doing in the Israeli Knesset. I simply want to use this incident to demonstrate the chutzpa of Israeli Arab so-called leadership. Their attitude, as reflected here, is not unusual.
And this permits me to make a very significant point that is often lost:
Jews have NATIONAL rights in Israel. Political rights. For Israel is a Jewish state. Arabs, as Israeli citizens, have individual rights: Civil rights, human rights, religious rights. They do NOT have national rights, rights as a people. But, deliberately confusing the issue, they often act as if they do.
Yesterday, when writing about the freeze that the prime minister is apparently instituting at some level, I mentioned that Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon had said, the day prior, that he hadn't heard of any freeze.
Yesterday, in a public gathering, Danny Danon said, "We must unfreeze the freeze." Ooooh...
I was not there, but I spoke with highly reliable sources that had heard him. The irony for me was that he was making this statement at just about the same time that I was writing in my posting that he said there was no freeze. So quickly did his position shift, so quickly is this situation shifting.
The full parameters of what Netanyahu has instructed or intends are still not clear -- although the JPost is now reporting that what is involved are tenders for public housing projects in four communities in Judea and Samaria: Efrat, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev and Karnei Shomron.
Nor is it clear how Danon would like to go about unfreezing the freeze.
The good news, as reported by the JPost, is this:
The Defense Ministry on Wednesday approved for deposit plans for the construction of 296 homes in the West Bank settlement of Beit El with the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria.
The Civil Administration must now advertise the plans in a newspaper, after which begins a 60-day period for the public to register objections, before the plans receive final approval from the council...
"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to build the homes in June, as part of a deal reached with 33 families living in the Ulpana outpost located at the outskirts of the settlement, whose homes were slated for demolition as the result of a High Court of Justice ruling.
"The settlers agreed to leave their homes without physical resistance, in exchange for a pledge by government officials to build 296 new homes."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon will have to sign off on this, but I do not anticipate this as a problem.
This news about building follows other news of 90 units in Beit El that have been fully cleared for construction. This is also part of the Ulpana compensation package.
I really don't want to make too much of Steven Hawking's decision to boycott Israel. But this information is worth sharing:
“Hawking’s decision to join the boycott of Israel is quite hypocritical for an individual who prides himself on his whole intellectual accomplishment. His whole computer-based communications system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law center that represents victims of terrorism.
"Hawking, 71, has suffered from motor neuron disease for the past 50 years, and relies on a computer-based system to communicate." Darshan-Leitner says the equipment has been supplied by Intel in Israel since 1997.
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