September 15, 2015 | Forbes

Temple Mount Violence Yet Again

There were clashes on the Jerusalem Temple Mount in the runup to Rosh Hashanah, and I blame Moshe Dayan. He was the prematurely politically correct Israeli Defense Minister who, in 1967, couldn’t bear the thought of Jews in charge of the site of King Solomon’s Temple, the al Aqsa mosque and the rock from which Mohammed rode his stallion to Paradise and on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. The Israelis had conquered it in the 6-Day War and had raised their flag above the Al Aqsa Mosque. Dayan ordered it taken down, and informed the Waqf—the Jordanian Muslim organization that had administered the area under Arab occupation—that it would remain in charge.

Dayan was a political maverick, to put it mildly. He insisted on referring to himself as a “Mesopotamiam,” or “Canaanite,”and his home and garden were a sort of museum of ancient relics (many pilfered from the Israel Museum and others simply taken illegally in the course of military campaigns) that predated Judaism itself, a reflection of his religious skepticism.

So far as I have been able to learn, Dayan had no authority to issue such an order, he simply did it. And under the circumstances—he’d become an iconic hero—nobody felt like challenging him.

It was a terrible blunder. Today, the Temple Mount is the only territory in Israel where freedom of religion is not enforced, because the Muslim Waqf wants it to be a strictly Islamic zone. Jews, Christians and agnostics are not allowed to gather there for religious observance of any sort, and tourist visits are strictly limited. No such strictures are permitted in synagogues, churches, and such areas as the City of David just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Muslims have used their power over the Temple Mount in an Orwellian project to “prove” there was never any Jewish presence there, the better to insist on the “historic” rights of the Islamic ummah to exercise total control. To that end, Jewish antiquities have been systematically removed, and bulldozers have been deployed to erase any evidence of the temples in ancient times. This enables them to claim that the Temple Mount has “always” been Muslim, even though its alleged importance is not mentioned in the Koran.

If Dayan had not returned the Temple Mount to Arab Muslim control, the same freedom of religion that is practiced everywhere else in Israel would be extended to this important area as well. Israeli security already provides protection to al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, and, were it not for Dayan’s unfortunate decision, the archeological integrity of the space could have been preserved.

As things stand today, Israeli soldiers and police are used to keep non-Muslims from visiting one of the most symbolically powerful places on earth, the place where Abraham took his son to be sacrificed, where Jesus expelled the money-changers, and where Mohammed set off on his heavenly horseback ride. Anyone seeking eventual harmony among the Western world’s three great monotheistic religions should want the maximum religious freedom and toleration on the Temple Mount. Moreover, those who care about the preservation of the archeological remnants of the ancient world should decry the systematic destruction of the Temple Mount’s rich treasure of physical documentation of its past.

Ironically, the Temple Mount is the site of fairly frequent religious conflict as the result of a snap decision by a man who sought to prevent Israel from exercising “colonial” control, and giving authority to just one of the three religions. It hasn’t worked well.