At the precise time that the bus was bombed in southern Jerusalem on Monday, Temple Mount activists were holding their annual Passover sacrifice ceremony across town on Mount Scopus. The ceremony, which has been held for the past 20 years, includes the slaughter and “sacrifice” of a lamb – a practice for the possibility of actually bringing the paschal sacrifice to the Temple Mount.
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Hundreds of people attended the event, including, for the first time, a sitting MK, Miki Zohar (Likud). Zohar congratulated those present with the words, “May we merit true freedom,” referring to the rebuilding of the Temple. Jerusalem City Councilman Aryeh King was more direct, expressing his hope that, “In our days we will no longer see that abomination [the Dome of the Rock] on the Temple Mount.”
One cannot deny the link between the increasingly messianic discourse regarding the Temple Mount, including the growing call to change the status quo that forbids Jewish prayer there, and the increasing violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The correlation between the expressions and actions of Israeli politicians regarding the Temple Mount and terror attacks is written in blood. That was the case with the 15 hearings held by Miri Regev in the Knesset Interior Committee, in an effort to pressure the police to change the status quo, and with Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel’s ascent to the Mount before the High Holidays, which sparked the current wave of violence.
As Passover approaches, it would behoove the police to block Temple Mount activists from heating things up. They are expected to try to offer a sacrifice on the eve of the holiday, as they do every year. The security forces must do everything possible to prevent this.
In addition, the police must convey to the Palestinian public the message that nothing is about to change on the Temple Mount. According to comprehensive reports by the International Crisis Group and the Ir Amim association, there is a clear and direct connection between closing the Temple Mount to Muslim worshipers and the outbreak of violence. It would be best for the police to keep the Mount open to Muslims during the holiday, even if it involves security and management difficulties.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must once again call on MKs and ministers to avoid declarations about the Temple Mount and refrain from visiting there. The Temple Mount is part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and occupied territory under international law. The government cannot do as it pleases there; it must take into account the Palestinians, the Jordanian monarchy, and other international agencies.