Sukkot riots in Har Habayit — on Muslim and Jewish claims in Jerusalem

Muslim anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem during Jewish religious festivals are nothing new. They have nothing to do with the occupation, nothing to do with settlements, nothing to do with alleged “Jewish provocations”. They have been a constant feature of life in Jerusalem ever since the beginning of Shivat ZION, which is the real “Jewish provocation.” How dare these Jews display in public their religious and national attachment to Jerusalem? This is surely a “provocation” isn’t it? So, for example, in 1929 we had the Kotel riots, instigated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in protest over the “provocation” of Jews blowing the Shofar in Yom Kippur in the Western Wall, riots which not accidentally, spread to Hebron, leading to the massacre of 67 Jews and the prevention of Jews from praying in the Cave of the Patriarch until the liberation in 1967.

Just hours before Monday’s riots, Palestinian sources gave the exact time of when they will start, and nothing was spontaneous, and it never is. This is the battle over Jerusalem, the battle over religious freedoms, the battle over the narrative of the conflict with the Palestinians. A word of personal clarification; I am not an observant Jew, I do not pray on Shabbat and Yom Tov in synagogues, but for Yom Kippur, when I read in Hebrew the prayer for the State of Israel, but I respect the rights of Jews to pray everywhere , “even” in Har Habayit, and even if some Rabbis forbid such prayer for whatever Halachic reason. Those of us who do not live by rulings of Rabbis, should not pick those rulings which fit their politics. This is exactly what many Left Wingers do, as they oppose Jewish rights in Jerusalem, surely in Har Habayit [they prefer calling the place Haram Al Sharif… as everything Arab and Muslim is Kosher…], but quote those Rabbis who also object for totally different reasons. So nice for the Lefties to be SO Jewish when they can use it to advocate Arab and Muslim rights on the expense of Jews. But then, why do I come back to all that in Sukkot of all times?

Sukkot is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three Jewish holidays[Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot], in which Jews living in our homeland made the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, simply because Jerusalem was THE center of Jewish life,
the center of the Jewish people. The one most important center of Jewish being. NOTHING like that in Islam and Christianity. Many thousands of Jews resumed this tradition in our days, going to Jerusalem, among them many who wish to pray in Har Habayit, which is their eternal, undisputed right.

This right is infringed upon, outright violated by a Jewish government in Israel, in fact, by a “nationalist” government. Under normal conditions, the Israeli equivalents of the ACLU and the likes of should been the first to raise hell about this blatant policy of restricting the right of Jews to pray in their ho;y place. Well, the Israeli Left Wing, as was already mentioned is keen ONLY on the rights of non-Jews. Forget about them…. I definitely am aware of the explosiveness of the situation in Jerusalem in general, and in Har Habayit in particular. Muslim sensitivities, Christian claims, opposing Jewish Rabbis, the King of Jordan and what’s not. We clearly cannot behave like an elephant in a China shop, as the stakes are high, but the stakes should be high to ALL concerned, not only Israel.

Take for example Jordan; The Hashimite Kingdom has a special attachment to Jerusalem, a formal, recognized role to play in the Holy Places. That is a given, but two points to be made here. First, this is the same Hashimite Kingdom which desecrated all our holy places after 1949, preventing ONLY Jews from praying Jerusalem. Second, it is the Hashimite Kingdom which has for many years benefited from an undeclared , but very effective Israeli defense shield. King Abdallah may need a reminder here, that Jews have ALSO rights in Jerusalem, and in reality, his statements are inflammatory and provocative. The Palestinian Authority[PA] of Abbas should also be reminded of this basic, unalterable fact, that Jews have “some” rights in Har Habayit.

So many of us just nod with our heads, dismissing out of hand, statements from the leaders of the PA, claiming that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem! Really? Enough is enough with this indifference towards this kind of incitement. This is NOT to say, that we have ALL the rights. No, we should share with others, but sharing is what is — a partnership on the basis of accepting the rights of ALL, even of Jews. And with that, I accept the need for a compromise in Jerusalem, and every compromise is, by definition painful, but it cannot be painful only to Jews.

Sukkot is exactly the time to remind us of our rights in Jerusalem and Har Habayit. It is sensitive, it is a potentially dangerous situation, but it is a challenge which cannot be ignored anymore.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina