After years of reluctance, David M. Weinberg decided to visit the Temple Mount. He explains what he learned:
First, that there is plenty of room: loads of undeveloped and even desolate sections of land on the vast Temple Mount plaza where a Jewish house of prayer could be built without interfering in any way with Muslim shrines and prayer practices.
Nobody needs to feel threatened by a modest presence of Jewish petitioners tucked away in a distant corner of the holy mount. Unless, of course, your opposition to Jewish prayer and visitation on the Temple Mount stems from the wholesale denial of indigenous Jewish rights in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel—which alas has become almost-mainstream Palestinian discourse.
As Weinberg goes on to explain, the Israeli police and the waqf—the Jordanian-controlled trust that administers the Muslim holy sites—enforce a hierarchical system dictating which groups have access to the Temple Mount. This regime allots the most rights to Muslim worshippers, and fewer rights, in descending order, to: non-Jewish tourists, Jewish tour groups that are not visibly religious, and finally, it accords fewest rights to religious Jews.
Given the hostility of the waqf, I suppose that there is some law-and-order logic to this discriminatory treatment of Jews and Israelis, for the moment. I certainly have no complaints against the Israel police for doing the best they can at this supersensitive site.
But from Israel’s leaders, I have higher expectations and elevated demands. It’s time for them to negotiate significant improvements in the way the Temple Mount is administered, and Jewish-Israeli rights are accommodated there, based on principles of peace, tolerance, and religious freedom—for Jews and non-Jews alike.