Monday, April 11, 2005

Any Suggestions for Ha'aretz?

Ha'aretz asks some tough questions:

Temple Mount groups ratchet up pullout opposition
By Nadav Shragai

The disengagement plan and the Oslo accords can be abolished only by "smashing" the walls of the Temple Mount, Prof. Hillel Weiss, chairman of the Shoharei Hamikdash (Friends of the Temple) organization, said over the weekend. Weiss, a veteran Temple Mount activist who wishes to renew the activities of the ancient Sanhedrin and Jewish rituals on the mount, called for "focused spiritual opposition" at the site itself.

Weiss is not alone in his perception of the role of the Temple Mount these days. At a rabbinical convention held recently at the Western Wall Yeshiva, a number of rabbis bemoaned "the sin of neglecting the mount." Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, for example, said that the pullout from Gush Katif and the northern West Bank was divine punishment imposed on the people of Israel.

"When the landlord, the Creator of the universe, has nowhere for his presence to dwell there, why should we have rest? When years pass by, and what has to be done isn't done, this is the result," Ariel said.

With the disengagement approaching, and the political and protest actions bearing no fruit, the Temple Mount movements are intensifying their calls for action on and around the site, in the hope of putting the brakes on the pullout. No one is going as far as speaking about a terror attack on the mount or against one of the mosques there, but the publicized plans, such as of mass demonstrations, are causing sleepless nights for the security forces.

During the period of the evacuation of Sinai and Yamit, too, there were those who pinned their hopes on the Temple Mount. But then the Jewish Underground appeared, and Yehoshua Ben Shushan came up with a plan to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque. Ben Shushan believed that "removing the abomination from which the Palestinians draw their strength and the source of their vitality" would weaken them and put an end to the withdrawal process.

When the Sinai agreements were being drawn up, in the mid-1970s, Yoel Lerner devised a similar plan, also in the hope that the withdrawal from Sinai could be stopped by means of a terror attack on the Temple Mount.

Security elements believe that today, too, there are extremists who wish to carry out an attack on the Temple Mount as a way of undermining the disengagement.

But not all the Temple Mount movements are enamored with the idea of using the site as a tool to sabotage the pullout - even by means of protest actions there alone. Yehuda Etzion, for example, the leader of the Chai Vekayam (literally, Alive and Well) movement, believes that the mount, a sacred entity unto itself, should not be used as a tool.

"This is profanation of the sacred," explained Etzion, a former member of the Jewish Underground.

Etzion, Weiss, Ariel and many others come from among ever-widening circles of individuals who wish to exercise the right to visit the site, not to mention the right to hold prayers there. Since 1967, there has been a ban on Jewish prayer or ritual on the mount, but visits are permitted. Some 35 years ago, however, an absolute majority of rabbis ruled that visits by Jews to the site were forbidden by Jewish law.

This majority has dwindled in recent years, and many Jews visit the Temple Mount today; the change in attitude poses a tough challenge to the police. [Bold mine.]How does one uphold freedom of access to holy sites (in this case, for Jews), and also prevent unrest and disorder on the part of Muslims on the Temple Mount?

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