Of all the sacred sites in the annals of Jewish history, none illustrates the maddening, millennia-old existential paradox facing the Jewish people more instructively and symbolically than Judaism’s holiest of holies – the Temple Mount.
From the triumphant creation of the First Temple during King Solomon’s reign, to the present-day conflict, it continues to epitomize the jarring dichotomy of tragedy and triumph that has come to define the Jewish experience.
Indeed, it is the ultimate metaphor for the ongoing Jewish/Palestinian war of attrition.
Based on the deadly incitement propagated by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement over their purported sovereignty on the Mount, one would be forgiven for believing that al-Aksa Mosque is Islam’s holiest site.
It is not. In the annals of the Muslim faith, al-Aksa is a bronze medalist, following Mecca and Medina.
However, for Jews, the Temple Mount very much represents the gold. Therefore it should come as no surprise that radical Muslims have seized upon it as the ultimate weapon to produce violence against Israeli Jews.
In many ways, the Temple Mount has been the subject of the greatest kidnapping and ransom in Jewish history.
And despite being the crown jewel of Judaism, there is a very simple and practical reason why the government gave Jordan’s Wakf Islamic trust custodianship after seizing it in 1967 during the Six Day War: If it had not, the war would have never ended, and countless more Muslim soldiers would have attempted to annihilate the people of Israel.
Like it or not, that logic still holds true.
Moreover, what many people forget about the now seven- month terrorist wave that has engulfed the capital, and the country, is that its catalyst was the government barring two Islamic Movement Northern Branch hate groups, the Murabitun (for men) and the Murabitat (for women), from the site last September to stop their chronic attacks against Jewish visitors.
Since then, Palestinian leadership and media have recklessly colluded to manipulate the groups’ expulsion from the site to propagate the deadly and patently false narrative that Jews intend to seize and destroy al-Aksa, which has fueled what many are now deeming to be a third intifada.
It is this unconscionably irresponsible and fallacious claim that has driven Arab children as young as 10 to attempted murder and other predatory behaviors against Jews throughout the country.
And while each of the subsequent lone-wolf terrorist attacks perpetrated against Jews has been unpredictable, the common denominator is that each of the assailants cited the “defense of al-Aksa” as the driving force behind his or her deadly violence.
Now, following a relative lull in violence on the compound after the expulsion of Islamic radicals, the breach of security protocols by a tiny fraction of Jewish visitors during Passover has reignited the conflict at ground zero itself.
Over the past several days, police have removed more than a dozen Jews from the site for praying, or ignoring clear police orders put in place to preserve the delicate status quo, which severely restricts non-Muslim rights there while overwhelmingly favoring Muslim rights.
The inequitable status quo at the compound may have obscured right and wrong in this conflict. But as thenprime minister Levi Eshkol understood all too well upon granting Jordan oversight of it after Israel’s victory in 1967, Jews have never been afforded a fair fight in this region.
To be sure, despite paratroop commander Motta Gur’s famous declaration in June 1967, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” Israel granted the Wakf custodianship, knowing well that full Jewish control of the contested site would hasten an unprecedented war by the Muslim world.
Since then, extremists on both sides have largely defined the conflict as a winner- takes-all, zero-sum game, all but ensuring that détente remains unobtainable.
In the meantime, the Palestinian leadership understands unequivocally that portraying al-Aksa as under threat is its ultimate trump card in rallying the troops and inciting more violence against Jews.
But it is a transparent trap that the Israeli leadership can see from miles away.
Of course Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and countless other rightwing Jews, would love nothing more than to announce definitively that the “Temple Mount is in our hands,” but he is smart enough to appreciate the wisdom of his predecessors, who knew peace would only last if the holy site is shared with Muslims via the hated status quo.
And although the arrangement – which grants Muslims unlimited access and prayer rights there, while radically restricting Jewish visitation and forbidding Jews from even moving their lips silently lest they appear to be praying – is profoundly unfair, it remains the only viable means of maintaining a semblance of order and preventing more senseless deaths.
Therefore, despite political ideology, the best way to neutralize this threat is to follow Netanyahu’s lead by showing the world that the Palestinian incitement is a cynical lie used in an effort to destroy an enemy it has no chance of defeating through conventional, or “fair,” means.
In the final analysis, the lopsided status quo has prevented the cauldron on the Temple Mount from boiling over into something far worse.
And while the world does not understand the lengths Israelis continue to go to make peace with an enemy that does not recognize its right to exist – including making concessions that no other nation would – it remains an existential necessity to accept such concessions as a bitter reality to save innocent lives.
Even if it is profoundly unjust.