Murder on the Temple Mount – Challenging the Status Quo

A few weeks ago, my sixteen year old son asked my brother how he had become religious. My brother described growing up in Sydney following our family’s immigration from South Africa in 1978. He explained how he had become acutely aware of a cultural subtext in which Jews were considered privileged to be able to live amongst white Australians as long as we understood our inherent differences and kept a respectable social distance. Provided we kept a low profile and didn’t rock the boat too much we would be afforded equal educational and professional opportunities – though some things were off limits, like the Royal Sydney Golf Course whose policy was not to accept Jews, Asians or Blacks as club members.

“We were always reminded that we were Jewish”, my brother continued. “And eventually I realized that the reason for this was, that we were Jewish!” So instead of fighting it, I decided to explore it.”

The phrase ‘don’t rock the boat,’ swished around my head for days as I recalled conversations amongst my parents’ peers about a sort of cultural glass ceiling in the WASP (Western Anglo Saxon Protestant) boys clubs which permeated the political and social echelons of the day. Characteristically many Jewish South African migrants had left because they had rocked the boat of apartheid injustice and now feared for their lives and the lives of their families. By the time my generation graduated from high school, things had shifted somewhat, for the men anyway. The women would have to fight for a few decades more.

Asking a Jew not to rock the boat is an anathema to the Jewish psyche, it is a suppression of the Jews natural curiosity and intellectual desire to challenge the world in which we live. We are designed to to challenge the status quo; we are trouble makers and boat rockers from way back. When a Jewish child asks ‘why’, his or her teachers enthusiastically reply, ‘so you would ask’. The Start-Up Nations’s success is a testament to just how much challenging the status quo is a foundation on which the Jewish people are built.

Wikipedia defines the ‘Status Quo of Holy Land sites’ as a late 18th century Ottoman concept designed to “preserve the division of ownership of various sites important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews to their then-current holders or owners, and represented agreements among the various religions that nothing could be changed from the way it was without upsetting the balance of order in maintaining the religious sites for visits by pilgrims.” But apart from a brief summary written by a civil servant of the British mandate, a legal and binding document on the so called ‘status quo’ has never been formalized.

In 1967 the Israeli military took control over Jerusalem’s Old City, freeing it up and giving access to all people of all religions and faiths after a 19 year period of tightly restricted Jordanian control. Since according to Jewish religious law, Jews were prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount anyway, as an act of good faith and possibly misguided advise by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel at the time, control of the Temple Mount was handed over to the Jordanian waqf. (The waqf is an Islamic entity entrusted to administer land intended for charitable purpose, with no intent of reclaiming the asset.)

Since then Jews have been forbidden from praying on the Temple Mount by waqf officials. Jews may visit during restricted hours along with Christians and tourists. Religious reasons are given as a standard answer to the obvious question why? but essentially we all recognize it as our version of ‘political correctness’ meaning here, on this issue, we don’t rock the boat.

But the murder of two Israeli Druze soldiers on the Temple Mount last week changed that. As Muslim Arabs refuse to enter through security gates which defile their exclusive holy rights, Jews have flocked to the area, filming themselves praying in a statement of solidarity, rebelliousness and pride. And why not? For the first time in years, they believed they could do so without being harassed by paid operatives. And even though they have since been removed in an attempt to restore the Status Quo, the prayers of Jews ascending from the Temple Mount can never be undone.

The murder of our the two officers was clearly instigated by an intentional lie maliciously spread through the Muslim communities about a ‘threat to the Status Quo on the Temple Mount.’ It was a political devise used to stir up the emotions of young radical Muslim during sermons in the mosque. The town from which the terrorists came has a history of Islamic fundamentalist ex-mayors some of whom have been imprisoned for close financial support of Hamas. This same lie continues to be spread by the grand mufti of Jerusalem with the implicit intent to fuel the flames of the violence we see taking place in and around the Old City and East Jerusalem today.

As the Jordanian parliament stands in silence to honor the terrorists as ‘martyrs’, whether they and their Muslim brothers like it or not, (and whether the Israeli government concedes defeat or not), murder on the Temple Mount has changed the Status Quo, as have the prayers of Jews. If there’s one thing we Jews have learned from our long exile amongst the ‘nations of the world’ it is this: Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. The Temple Mount will never again be the same.

About the Author
Born in South Africa, raised in Sydney and still shocked but recovering in Israel, Rebecca Bermeister writes about all things Israeli from the arsim at the hairdresser, to the politics of the Temple Mount. Exploring the brilliant tapestry that makes up this fascinating country, her short pieces are both poignant and amusing.
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