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‘These Stones Are Not Silent’

Meir Y. Soloveitchik

Commentary, June 2022

On May 6, 2022, Israel’s Independence Day, the Temple Mount was opened to Jews for the first time in 11 days. Jewish visitors, calmly and proudly walking into the sacred space, were hurried through the site by police. Their efforts to sing the national anthem and hoist the Israeli flag were quickly curtailed by Israeli police. The patriotism and reverence on display inspired the pride and respect of many.

But to one minister of the current government, Jews such as these are a menace. In an interview several days earlier, the Labour Party’s Diaspora minister, Nacham Shai, blamed the tensions at the site on one group, and it was not Hamas. No, it was the Jews of Israel, in his view, who had the gall to seek to visit Judaism’s holiest site; even worse, in his view, was that some had violated the “status quo,” according to which Jews can visit, but not pray, at Judaism’s holiest site. “There are a lot more Jews who are going up to the Temple Mount. There are some that stop on the way and pray, which was forbidden,” Shai said in an interview. He added: “There is a certain escalation, a certain deterioration. Also, with the status quo. They opened the Mount and let more and more Jews go there. The price that we will pay later, all of us, will be huge.”

This ascription of blame to the Jews of Israel is a calumny. As David Weinberg has noted, the fact is that “the so-called status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has long been dead. It has been violated repeatedly in recent years by radical Palestinian and Islamic actors who have turned the mount into a base of hostile operations against Israel, instead of protecting it as a zone of prayer and peace.” Indeed, events immediately prior to May 6, during a period in which Israel had acquiesced to Jordanian demands and barred Jews from entry, proved Weinberg’s point. A PLO flag hung from the Dome of the Rock for 10 days. On April 27, on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, an assembled crowd  that had purportedly come to the Mount to worship on Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque chanted “Khayber ya yehud,” a battle cry against Israelis referencing an Arab war against Jews in the seventh century. On April 29, Israeli police were forced to close the site as rioting “worshippers” threw stones and firecrackers at the Jews praying at the Western Wall below.

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