Today, Friday, and the next few days will tell us if the detectors on the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif are tools of increased security or foreshadow the beginning of a new cycle of violence. ELAN EZRACHI, in Jerusalem, writes exclusively for Plus61J
In popular Hebrew, they are called magnometers. In professional English, they are labelled Security Metal Detectors, the metal gates that individuals have to walk through as part of a security check. We see them everywhere. They cause some discomfort, but we all understand their purpose and the reason they are used.
Not in Jerusalem. After the July 14th terror attack on the Temple Mount that killed two Israeli policemen, the Israeli authorities decided that Moslem worshippers would have to go through metal detectors to enter the Temple Mount.
Sounds reasonable? Not in Jerusalem, where every decision, even the mundane technical ones is received with suspicion and anger.
Immediately after the attack Israel closed the Temple Mount for 48 hours. Such a closure occurred only once in the past 50 years, in 1969. And when the police started to re-open the gates, the new feature that was introduced was batteries of metal detectors that were positioned in front of all the gates leading to the Mount.
The Israeli public saw this as a proportional measure after the terror attack, given that the terrorists came out of the Mount armed with weapons that they smuggled in. The Palestinians, backed by Jordan and other Arab countries, interpreted the move as another step in the Israeli hold of the site and domination of the surrounded areas.
In order to understand this dynamic, we need to go back to 1967, days after the War. Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Minister of Defence at the time, identified the sensitivity of the Israeli control of the Mount that was gained just days before. On June 17th 1967 he handed the de facto control over the Temple Mount to the Moslem authorities. By doing so, he blocked the Jewish passion for restoration of Jewish presence on the Mount. This was a dramatic move that set the parameters for the site for decades to come.
The arrangement on the Temple Mount from 1967 is that all religious matters are in the hands of the administrative authorities that existed during the Jordanian period. This arrangement was solidified in the Oslo agreement signed in 1994 whereby Israel formally recognised the status of Jordan in administering the Moslem holy sites.
Parallel to the Israeli consent, right-wing Israeli groups started to put pressure on the Israeli governments to allow them to conduct prayer on the Mount, rather than just visit the site like all other tourists.
As the years went by, there were ups and down in this delicate balance. The Temple Mount became one of the most difficult issues that stand in the way of any political solution to the conflict. The place is considered a volcano that can erupt unexpectedly at any time.
We are now waiting to see how the metal detectors that symbolize Israel’s control will play out in the conflict of narratives and symbols that hover over the Mount. The next few days will tell us if the detectors are tools of increased security or foreshadow the beginning of a new cycle of violence.
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