Time to Address the Jerusalem Issue

The shooting of a prominent Jewish activist who frequented the sacred Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharifon a nearly daily basis by a Palestinian gunmen on October 29, 2014, is another cornerstone signaling a deteriorating state of affairs. Young Israeli Jewish nationalists declared that they would attempt to visit the Temple Mount tomorrow morning in response. This latest incident comes after another attack in which a Palestinian driver ran over an Israeli baby and a woman, while several days earlier an Israeli settler ran over a Palestinian girl in the Occupied West Bank.

Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions and contains residents of all three faiths. Ever since 1967, when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, it did not grant Arab residents of the city the same rights given to Jewish residents. Non-Jewish residents in the East are given residency permits but usually not full citizenship. They are often barred from expanding their homes as their families grow in number while they suffer from neglect by the municipal services in an attempt to "Judaize" the city.

The city’s poster site, the Temple Mount where the magnificent Al Aqsa Mosque is located, is occupied by Israeli soldiers who guard the entrances and exits and frequently raid the area once clashes break out. Israel limits access to the holy site to Palestinians below the age of 45, thereby restricting Palestinian Muslims’ freedom of religion. For many Palestinian Muslims, it is not easy to accept that that this holy site is under a foreign occupation. As Israel expands its building of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem it appears that a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as Jerusalem remains as elusive and ungraspable as a religious vision.

For Jews who are residents of Jerusalem a different situation emerges. While Israeli settlers are encouraged to settle Arab East Jerusalem, Israeli Jews are not allowed to pray in the Temple Mount due to Israel’s fear of instigating a religious war. While most religious Jews believe that entering the area is forbidden until the coming of the Messiah, a small yet adamant minority continues to visit the area in an attempt to reclaim it. In the eyes of Palestinian Muslims, this is as an attempt to forcibly grab a religious site with the goal of eventually destroying the Al Aqsa Mosque and rebuilding the Jewish temple in its stead. From the perspective of nationalist religious Jews, however, the Israeli government is not allowing them to practice their religion in a Jewish holy site while they may be blind to the fact that the presence of Israeli soldiers in the area is seen as a foreign occupation by Muslim worshippers. The situation is further compounded by the fact that Israel often prevents Palestinian Christians from visiting the Holy Sepulcher during Easter, reserving the area for international tourists.

Jerusalem is a holy city to the three monotheistic faiths and has rarely been a peaceful city. Yet the ongoing Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the lack of a conclusive Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement and Israel’s discriminatory policies in the holy city, only ensure that the crisis will deepen and deteriorate. As a first step towards resolving the current predicament, the rights of all citizens living in the city must be respected and granted unconditionally and the military occupation must come to an end. Otherwise, the holy city may witness yet another round of bloodshed and misery.

Joshua Tartakovsky is an Israeli-American independent journalist and a graduate of Brown University and LSE.

18 thoughts on “Time to Address the Jerusalem Issue”

  1. "You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight."
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  2. Assuming the Al-Aqsa mosque and the nearby Dome of the Rock were moved/demolished or otherwise removed from the site, is Israel- indeed, is the Jewish world as a whole- prepared to immediately rebuild the Temple on those grounds?

    On the other hand, simply because there was a Temple on this specific site, what is preventing a rebuilt Temple from being located elsewhere? Is there a requirement in the Torah specifying the location, or is this simply a claim being asserted by the Rabbinate of Israel?

    It seems that claim to the Temple Mount is based on nothing more than right of possession- on the one hand, the Muslims powers-that-be were there last in a construction role, erecting the mosque and the Dome on the site while they held Jerusalem. The Israelis came along much later and took the city by force of arms, asserting their claim to the site. If the Israelis wanted to play hardball, by right of possession they could raze both structures and deal with the obvious negative fallout later.

    As it stands until a clear and internationally-recognized title to the Temple Mount is issued, there will always be those who will use it as an excuse for promoting their agenda, be they Jewish, Muslim, or Christian. Time to declare Jerusalem an open city and install a neutral governing authority, and give each faith a third of the population limit.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Right-wing Jewish nationalists would like to see the Third Temple rebuilt but this urgency is not shared by most religious Jews who are waiting for this to happen in a divine and supernatural way. Indeed, precisely since Jerusalem is such a holy site, it cannot be ruled by a narrowly political authority that seeks to advance people of a given religion or nationality. Jerusalem should indeed be governed by a neutral third party that will be able to accommodate and negotiate between the religious groups. It has been suggested before that political sovereignty in Jerusalem be suspended and granted to the 'Kingdom of Heaven' in a symbolic way.

  3. Personally, I advocate demolishing the entirety of Temple Mount, and building something more useful, like affordable housing, or a school, or clinic, or music venue.

    1. I advocate you expand your horizons. This is occupied Jerusalem with a totally different set of issues than the narrow place called your brain.

  4. Appreciate it … just for this wonderful content in this article, i am from morocco and the issu of israel and palestiene interest me..you heped me in my reserch thanks

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  11. I advocate you expand your horizons. This is occupied Jerusalem with a totally different set of issues than the narrow place called your brain.

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