By Carol Rushton
One of the more laughable charges against Israel is that Christians and Muslims are not allowed free access to the holy sites in the Jewish state. In all the almost eight years I lived in Israel the only people who did not have free access to the holy sites were the Jews, who were routinely denied access to the Temple Mount, the Jews’ holiest site in the entire world!
When Muslims captured Jerusalem in 638 A.D., they desecrated the Temple Mount, site of the First and Second Jewish Temples, by building two mosques on the site, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. By the Middle Ages when the Holy Land was ruled by the successive Islamic caliphates of the Mamluks and Ottomans, Muslims had turned the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where Abraham, Sarah, and other Jewish patriarchs are buried, into a mosque and forbade Jews from entering it. They did allow Jews to pray on the fifth step leading up to the cave, eventually changing it to the seventh step. How gracious of them!
After the Jews successfully defended the new State of Israel against the surounding Arab nations, Israel and Jordan signed the 1949 Armistice Agreement. Although Jerusalem was divided, with Israel having control over West Jerusalem and Jordan having control over East Jerusalem, the agreement specified that Israel and Jordan were supposed to work together to ensure that all Israeli residents regardless of religious affiliation had free access to the holy sites in the city. Jordan refused and denied Jews access to the Old City, the Wailing or Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and the Mount of Olives, holy to both Christians and Jews and where an ancient Jewish cemetery is located with thousands of Jewish graves and burial tombs.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Jordan also denied Christians access to certain sites important to their religious faith. Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem for 28 years, said, “Israeli Christians were subjected to various restriction during their seasonal pilgrimages to the holy place . . . Only limited numbers were grudgingly permitted to briefly visit the Old city and Bethlehem and Christmas and Easter.” Jordan imposed further restrictions on Christians schools, among them refusing to allow Christians to open new schools, forcing the teaching of the Qur’an in the existing schools, and refusing to allow Christian churches and charities to purchase property in Jerusalem. After the 1967 Six Day War when Israel took possession of East Jerusalem, Israel abolished those restrictions on Christians.
Although the Israeli military had control of East Jerusalem and the Israeli flag flew on the Temple Mount for a brief time, Israeli General Moshe Dayan ordered the flag removed and returned control of the Temple Mount back to the Waqf, the Islamic Religious Authority, who has control of that site to this day.
Today, Jews are banned from praying on the Temple Mount, essentially pretty much banning Jews from the site altogether, because the Muslims who control that area are offended when religious Jews pray on the Temple Mount. Many religious Jews do not wish to go on the Temple Mount because they are afraid they will desecrate the space where the Holy of Holies resided in the first two Temples. Other Jews feel it is imperative to establish some type of Jewish presence on the Temple Mount because it belongs to the Jews. For instance, Gershon Salomon and the Temple Mount Faithful used to try to install a cornerstone on the Temple Mount every year. That effort seems to have ceased for the present.
For years Arabs on the Temple Mount have pelted rocks and other items periodically at Jews and others praying at the Eastern or Wailing Wall below. This was brought to a head on July 14, 2017, when Muslims on top of the Temple Mount shot and killed two Israel policemen below. Israelis were outrage and tried to install metal detectors on the Temple Mount so that anyone who had access to the area would not be free to enter the Temple Mount complex with a weapon. However, the anger of Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East led Israel to abandon that idea.
As far as the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron is concerned, now that the Israeli government has control over that area both Muslims and Jews are allowed to enter separate areas of the site and pray. Every once in a while, a Muslim will try to smuggle in a knife and sometimes is successful in stabbing someone.
The only ones who ban others from religious sites are Muslims. For instance, Saudi Arabi to this day will not allow Bibles or churches to exist in their country. Saudi Arabia has banned non-Muslims form entering Mecca and Medina as well as not being allowed any public demonstrations of their religious faith; they can be prosecuted under Saudi law if they do. The same applies to Muslims who want to leave Islam and convert to another faith, something that is considered a crime under Saudi law, punishable by death.
I can personally attest to the fact that the Israeli government does a wonderful job in making sure Christian, Jewish, and Islamic holy sites are open to all as much as possible. The only time I ever had any trouble having access to a holy site was when my father would bring a Christian tour group to Israel, and would visit the Temple Mount. Even if I was wearing a skirt below the knee, the Muslims would sometimes throw a fit and demand that I put on a maxi skirt that went all the way to the ground before they would allow me to enter the area.
Andrew Klavan, with The Daily Wire, haa a novel solution: give the entire Middle East to Israel, thereby securing religious freedom and access to all holy site in the region for all. Check out his entertaining You Tube video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIEeiDjdUuU.