Contrary to concerns, and despite the operation in Gaza and a relatively large number of Jews going up to Temple Mount, Tisha B’Av on Sunday passed in relative quiet in Jerusalem. Aside from a few localized incidents and a handful of arrests, there were no violent clashes in the city.
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An immense line of Jews stretched from the early morning from the entrance to the Mount. On the sidelines, as always, stood a few yeshiva students who tried to dissuade Jews from ascending to the top. But on Sunday, more than ever, those opposed to going up were in the distinct minority. Anyone who stood at the entrance, looking at the masses waiting to go up and the handful of those protesting against them, realized that the Zionist-religious mainstream belief regarding the Temple Mount has changed for good.
“I remember the day a hundred of us went up to Temple Mount, what joy that was,” Yehuda Glick, a former MK and one of the most veteran visitors to the Mount wrote online. At the end of the day, 2,040 visitors were counted, one of the highest figures since 1967.
During the visiting hours, the police allowed the Jewish visitors to go up the Mount in groups of 40 to 50 at a time, some barefoot due to the sanctity of the place and the day. Each group was accompanied by a large police force, and a few Muslim worshippers calling “Allahu Akbar” at the Jews. During the day a few Jewish visitors to the Mount were detained after praying or prostrating themselves on it. At the gates of the Mount, vocal exchanges developed between Jews and Palestinians from time to time, and police were quick to separate the camps.
Despite the quiet on the Mount, once again an incident took place in which a Palestinian journalist was attacked by police. Palestinian photographers are a regular target of policemen at the Temple Mount, despite repeated promises to respect the freedom of the press there. During MK Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the Mount, police violently detained journalist Ahmad Gharabli, a photographer for French news agency AFP. In footage from the scene, police are seen assaulting Gharabli, who was documenting Ben Gvir’s visit, and he claims to have been beaten at the police station as well. He was released after about half an hour and required medical attention.
Gharabli is a well-known figure in Jerusalem who has been working as a photographer there for 16 years, and has been assaulted several times. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t say a single word. I was in the middle of snapping pictures. Everybody knows me there,” he told Haaretz. The police claim Gharabli was arrested because he did not comply with police instructions to secure the MK’s visit. But according to the video Gharabli took, it can be seen that he photographed Ben Gvir from afar, and that nobody told him anything before police dragged him away by force.
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There are several possible explanations for Sunday’s relative quiet in Jerusalem: the Gaza operation is focused on Islamic Jihad and not Hamas, and Islamic Jihad is relatively weak in Jerusalem; police prepared well, and unlike previous turbulent days in the city, this year Tisha B’Av did not coincide with the month of Ramadan or another Muslim holiday, when organizations can much more easily recruit youngsters for acts of resistance. Yet another explanation is that Tisha B’Av by nature bears a less defiant and threatening character to Muslim eyes, compared to Independence Day or Jerusalem Day.
Either way, to the Temple organizations, this was a rousing success: They proved that a large number of Jews going up to the Temple Mount doesn’t necessarily mean an outbreak of violence spreading from there throughout the region. “The fact is that the more Jews go up to the Mount, the more they become part of the natural landscape there, while the more they flee the Mount, the more they increase the violence,” Glick tweeted triumphantly.
The problem, as always, is the abstraction of Jerusalem’s reality. There is nothing “natural” about a capital city when 40 percent of its residents are not citizens of the state, and are seen as potential enemies by the police and a large part of Israeli society. There is also no way to persuade millions of Palestinians to give up their national and religious symbol of the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount to Jews and Christians). Just like in Gaza and the West Bank, clinging to the hope that the occupied and besieged in Jerusalem will resign themselves to their situation is an inexhaustible source of disappointment and violence.