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Freedom of Worship – Palestinian Style

Freedom of Worship – Palestinian Style
The gunfire starts when Jewish worshippers appear.
By Hugh Fitzgerald

The Palestinians are forever complaining about supposed Israeli designs on the Temple Mount. They spread conspiracy theories about Jews wanting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, in order to build a Third Temple in their place. They need only spread word of a “threat to Al-Aqsa” to whip up hysteria not only among their own people, but among Arabs and Muslims elsewhere. Of course, there is no threat to Al-Aqsa from the Israelis. The Jewish state scrupulously protects the right of Muslims to worship in the Mosque itself and in the compound outside, where as many as 250,000 Arabs have been known to gather. It is only the Jews who find themselves limited in their worship by the Israeli authorities, who do not permit Jews to pray, either aloud or even silently, on the Temple Mount, and forbid Jews from bringing Jewish prayer books, shawls, and tefillin onto what is the holiest site in Judaism. Israel takes care to minimize any offense to Muslim sensibilities.

The Palestinians do not, however, reciprocate; they try to deny Jews the right to worship at their religious sites. They intermittently throw rocks and bottles at Jewish visitors to the Mount, and even more life-threateningly, throw rocks from the Temple Mount itself at Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall far below. Nor do they respect other religious sites sacred to Jews. They have tried repeatedly to attack both worshippers at Rachel’s Tomb just outside Bethlehem – the third holiest site in Judaism — and the tomb itself. And they have done the same to Joseph’s Tomb, near Nablus, where Arabs have repeatedly tried to destroy the site, and also have fired on Jewish worshippers so often as to require the IDF to mount a permanent guard at the site.

A report on the latest Arab attack on Joseph’s Tomb is here: “Jewish Worshipers Return to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus Under Palestinian Gunfire, One Palestinian Killed,” Algemeiner, August 17, 2022:

Israeli forces were working Wednesday evening to secure the entry of worshipers to Joseph’s Tomb near the West Bank city of Nablus amidst gun-battles with Palestinian militants.

Armed Palestinians targeted both the hundreds of Jewish worshipers coming to the religious site and the Israeli forces protecting them, the military’s Army Radio reported. It is the first time Jewish worshipers have been allowed back to the compound since June 30, when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli forces and worshipers in a separate attack, injuring three.

Jewish worshippers had just been allowed to visit Joseph’s Tomb again, having been prevented from visiting the site since the end of June, when an attack by Palestinian gunmen had injured three Israelis. The gunfire resumed just as soon as Jewish worshippers reappeared.

There were no immediate reports of damage to the Tomb.

This was not the first time Joseph’s Tomb has been attacked. In October 2000, Rabbi Hillel Lieberman set out on foot to protect the sacred site, the Torah scrolls, and other religious books inside, after hearing it was being attacked, desecrated and burned. The next day, his bullet-riddled body was found outside Nablus, the biblical Shechem.

On Oct. 16, 2015, Palestinian Arabs set fire to the Tomb itself, causing major damage and requiring it to be closed for months while extensive repairs were being made. In 2022, there have again been a series of major attacks on Joseph’s Tomb and on Jews attempting to visit it. On April 9, a crowd of 100 Arabs marched to the site, where they set fire to it, resulting again in major damage. Again, in late June, Arab gunmen shot at Jews attempting to visit the site, and it was again closed down until mid-August. Israeli forces have been conducting raids to arrest terrorist in Nablus, and the Palestinians, as part of their response, have chosen to again fire on Jewish visitors to Joseph’s Tomb, thereby halting such visits until such time as the IDF can completely suppress the gunfire, and install a permanent security presence to protect Jewish pilgrims to the site.

The same Palestinian hostility to Jewish religious sites has led to many attacks on Rachel’s Tomb, just outside Bethlehem. The site has been holy to Jews for thousands of years. But the Muslims only began to claim it as a mosque in 1996, in order to “counter-balance” the ancient Jewish claim. On October 21 of that year, UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared that Rachel’s Tomb near Jerusalem is the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque – endorsing a Palestinian claim that first surfaced only in 1996, and which ignores centuries of Muslim tradition.

Now most of the world believes that Rachel’s Tomb is of great religious significance to Muslims. It never was. And here too, as at Joseph’s Tomb, the Palestinians have repeatedly attacked the site, which suggests it is not, after all, so “sacred” to them. At the end of 2000, when the Second Intifada broke out, the tomb came under Arab attack for 41 days. In May 2001, fifty Jews found themselves trapped inside by a firefight between the IDF, protecting the site, and Palestinian Authority gunmen trying to attack it.. In January 2013 a mob of 50 Arabs mounted another large-scale assault on Rachel’s Tomb, throwing pipe bombs, fire bombs and rocks at the security forces guarding the compound, but they did not manage to achieve their main goal, which was to destroy the tomb site itself. In 2017, there was another attack, this one a home-made pipe bomb that caused no damage. In 2019, explosives were again thrown at Rachel’s Tomb, but fell short, only damaging Israeli vehicles at the site.

At the Cave of the Patriarchs outside Hebron, a site which is supposed to be shared by Jews and Muslims, the Palestinians keep trying to prevent Jews from visiting and worshipping. In 1976 about two hundred Arab youths entered the Tomb and destroyed Torah scrolls and prayer books. In May 1980, an attack on Jewish worshippers returning from prayers at the tomb left 6 dead and 17 wounded.

These are only a few of the major attacks by Palestinians on the sites of religious significance to Jews. These are also sites that are holy to Muslims, though in every case to a lesser degree. Yet there has not been a single instance where the Israelis have tried to interfere in any way with Muslim visitors and worshippers, not on the Temple Mount, not at Joseph’s Tomb, nor Rachel’s Tomb, nor at the Cave of the Patriarchs. The next time you hear someone accusing Israel of desecrating Muslim religious sites, and preventing Muslims from worshipping, remind them of just who has been attacking religious sites and worshippers in Israel, and who has been consistently defending and protecting them.

Original Article

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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