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Fear vs. Justice
by Judy Lash Balint
January 22, 2002

At an interfaith conference of religious leaders from the Holy Land in Egypt this week, Sheikh Abdulsalaam Abu Shkhaidem, mufti of the Palestinian Police, told the Jerusalem Post that Jews "have no right to go there, this is a mosque--the whole Temple Mount."

The statement encapsulates the Arab position regarding Judaism's holiest site that has been allowed to fester since the start of the current insurrection against the Jews. Since October 2000, by joint order of the Israeli police and the Wakf (the Moslem religious authority) , Jews have been prevented from stepping foot on the Temple Mount.

Israel's attitude toward the Temple Mount is symptomatic of deep-seated attitudes on all sides of the political and religious spectrum. It was the decidedly secular Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who turned over the keys of the Mount just a scant few days after IDF forces had liberated the site in the Six Day War. The result of his action was that between the years 1967 until October 2000, with the exception of a few periods of suspended duty, a wary joint Israeli police and Wakf kept the lid on Jewish activity at the site. Small numbers of Jews were permitted access to the area at limited times of day, but woe betide anyone caught praying up there. Immediate detention and interrogation at the Kishle, Jerusalem's Old City Police station, was the penalty for that crime.

Official reasoning for the restrictions has always been to keep the peace. Even today, when Israel is already enduring one of the harshest periods of terror in her history, some rabbis and politicians voice hesitancy in opening up the Temple Mount to Jewish access.

Last week when Prime Minister Arik Sharon sent up a trial balloon announcing that he looked with favor on the idea of restoring Jewish presence at our holiest site, the reaction was swift and predictable.

Despite 53 years of independent statehood and Jewish sovereignty, some Israelis still have not been able to rid themselves of the ghetto mentality so deeply ingrained in the national psyche.

We mustn't do anything that might possibly anger the goyim (non-Jews), is pretty much how the reaction from some quarters could be described. Far left Meretz MK, Naomi Chazan, daughter of a former rector of Hebrew University, opined that the very idea of renewed Jewish access to the Temple Mount would enflame tensions. "Such a move will just further escalate the situation," she told an Israel Radio reporter. "Why even raise this idea now"?" she asked plaintively. Admonishing the Arabs, she cautioned that they should not use the fact that Sharon's idea had been reported in the media as an excuse for further violence.

In other words, if we'll just sha shtill (keep quiet) the nasty anti-Semites will just go away. Everything will be OK as long as we don't do anything to provoke them.

Never mind that years of illegal, unsupervised Arab construction at the Temple Mount are destroying Jewish cultural and spiritual heritage. More than 6,000 tons of material from the Mount has been dug up over the past few years as the Arabs put the finishing touches to yet another mosque under the southeast corner of the Temple Mount. First and Second Temple period antiquities ended up tossed on the garbage pile in the Kidron Valley.

An ad hoc committee of archeologists and public figures recently reported that the ongoing Arab work on the Mount is "part of general efforts to turn all of the Temple Mount into one huge mosque." It's just another piece of the transparent campaign to undermine Jewish legitimacy, and should be fought at every opportunity.

The rabbis who represented the Jewish people at the Alexandria conference and failed to speak out against their Moslem colleague's outburst, and MK Chazan who trembles at the prospect of standing up for Jewish rights should remember that it's no longer 1939.