Jerusalem 101, Will the Tinderbox Catch Fire? Part II

Last week I blogged about Jerusalem 101, Trying to Understand a Complicated City – Part I 
This week it was my intention to continue on with Jerusalem 101, Jerusalem the Puzzle – Part II. Now barring any more new calamities, it will be Part III.

On Friday, two Israelis were murdered. Increased tensions are assured because of the killings.
The murders took place at the sacred site for both Muslims and Jews – called the Noble Sanctuary by the Muslims (where the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock are located), and the same location is called the Temple Mount by Jews (where the First and Second Temples were located).

While they were patrolling, an Israeli police officer was stabbed and two other Israeli Druze police officers were shot dead. Haiel Sitawe was 30, Kamil Shnaan was 22. Both had started their mandatory Israeli national service after high school in the Police force, and chose to stay on.1

You may never have heard of the Druze. The Druze faith is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with beliefs originating from Islam.

In Israel all communities are woven together in a multi-colored cloth. Some expand by the proximity, others become torn and frayed living together. Despite the beginnings of the Druze religion, they are not considered Muslim, and Druze tenets incorporates other religions and philosophies including elements of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism, and Hinduism.2 They are Arabic-speaking Arabs, who are totally immersed in Israeli society. It is estimated 140,000 live in Israel, mostly in the north.3

They are the only Arab community drafted into Israeli military service — like any Jewish teen after they graduate high school. They hold high ranking positions not only in the military, but in Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset.

Sitawe left behind a grieving family, a wife and 3-week old son. Scheduled for next week was Shnaan’s engagement party leaving behind his shattered family and fiancé. His father at his son’s funeral said [I] “pray that he is the last victim [of terror] and that people understand that enough is enough.”4

It has been rare on the Temple Mount to have killings. However, in the last two years it’s been common place in the Old City to have terrorist shootings and stabbings. Would you want to live this way?

The attackers were Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, 29; Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, 19 and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin, 19. The three Israeli Arab terrorists were from the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm and were armed with two Carlo-style submachine guns and a knife.

One of the three men who carried out a deadly terror attack Friday morning at the Temple Mount posted on Facebook shortly before the shooting, saying “Tomorrow’s smile will be more beautiful, God willing.” The text was accompanied by a selfie of two of the attackers showing them standing in front of their sacred site — the Dome of the Rock.5

The post was published at around 7:00 a.m., moments before the attack.

The assailants’ pictures were published on Palestinian social media. The Facebook selfie had nearly two thousand likes and a thousand comments within three hours. Most praised the attack.6

I know for most, we can’t even imagine the twisted reality that would favor such acts – but it’s important to ask where did those attitudes come from? It is what they are taught in their homes and schools – schools honored with terrorists’ names. It is the salary their surviving family will receive from the Palestinian government for killing Israelis (our U.S. tax dollars at work).

Can the Palestinian government claiming to want Peace be trusted? It’s hard not to be suspicious. Abbas’s comments, quoted in Arutz Shiva, Israel National News, in September 2015, following rioting by radical Islamists at the Al-Aqsa Mosque were broadcast on official PA TV and posted to his official website translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) follow…

“The Al-Aqsa (Mosque) is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they (Jews) have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem,” said Abbas.

“We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every martyr will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah,” he added, in a clear call for terrorist “martyrs” who die during attacks against Jews.” It might have been almost two years ago when he said this, but has this leopard lost his spots?

Mahmoud Abbas is the Palestinian leader — where else would negotiations start? But we would be naïve to blindly accept television poses. Palestinians have a harsh life. They need to hold their own leaders accountable, beyond blaming Israel. How much better would their lives be if instead of building tunnels to attack Israeli citizens, they built more schools and infrastructure for the Palestinian people?

Which is not to say that Israel couldn’t have made life more palatable for them. Yet if the Palestinian goal is the destruction of Israel, what does the world expect? The situation is a muddy mess.

Where is the compassion for the Palestinian people from other Arab countries? Instead of allowing them to blend into their populations, other Arab countries have kept them in Palestinian refugee camps for years. It’s a hard obstacle to expand beyond and overcome when after years of struggle, your identity embodies victimhood.

As people we have so much in common. If we only used our commonality to build a bridge between us…

The Palestinian leaders are sandwiched between what they tell the world, the Peace negotiators, and their people. Will they have the desire and fortitude to negotiate Peace and risk their own lives amongst their people? It will be hard but doable if they have the will.

I hope they have the strength to act like a Palestinian teacher and activist I know – Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi. He is a real-live super hero, sans the tights and cape. He changed his activist stance from his Fatah younger days when he saw how Israeli doctors and emergency personnel tried to help his mother – so it’s not impossible.

He was brought up in a culture that denies the Holocaust. Through his work, he learned about the Jewish death camps, and in 2011 traveled to Auschwitz. In 2014 he took 27 Palestinian students to Auschwitz.

It’s personally significant to me that 2014 was the same year as our trip to Israel. It seems that year for both of us will be forever pivotal in our soul’s journey. Separate paths with unique gifts that we could not have predicted. Out of terrifying circumstances, beautiful gardens have bloomed bearing unimaginable fruit.

He wanted to rid the Palestinian culture and psyche of Holocaust denial. His reward for his bravery was his student’s persecution by the media, and the university administration and the rest of the student population vilifying him. Nobody wanted to hear nor understand. Their protest activities were filled with incitement.

Due to the lack of academic freedom and university support, he tendered his resignation. Then in the middle of the night a few months later, when he thought things cooled down, his car was torched.

Professor Dajani says, “It is very difficult really to be moderate. People think of being moderate as being soft or being easy, but really to be moderate and to advance your cause of moderation, in times of conflict in particular, is very difficult to do, because people will not accept it. You have to be with us or against us. But they are wrong. We should not let this conflict deny us our humanity to the other.”

Over the years, Professor Dajani has evolved into a voice of moderation, through sharing personal narratives — working to end the conflict. He co-founded the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam. I feel blessed to have had the pleasure to meet him in person – he gives me hope.

As a mother, I don’t even want to imagine the pain of losing a child. I have compassion for these Druze mothers and the loss of the Palestinian mothers. Yet, I wonder how the Palestinian mothers of these criminals feel – are they sick at their personal loss, or proud of the accomplishments of their children?

According to the Times of Israel, since September 2015, mainly Palestinian assailants have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans, a Palestinian man and a British student, mainly in stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks. In that time, 280 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, a majority of them attackers, according to authorities.7

Now with this recent incident, it’s gotten even more precarious in Jerusalem. You can see how difficult it is not to step in feces trying to consider each other’s perspective.

Because the weapons used on Friday were stashed somewhere in the Noble Sanctuary, Israel for security purposes, closed down the area to investigate and search for other hidden weapons. From a security standpoint, it makes sense.

However, Friday is the most religious day to be called to prayer for Muslims. Tens of thousands of Muslims go to pray at the Noble Sanctuary on Fridays – Israel’s reasonable actions, prevented Muslims from going to their holy Mosque to pray.

The White House issued a statement in full support of Israel, “The people of the United States strongly condemns the terror attack,” the White House statement said. “There must be zero tolerance for terrorism. It is incompatible for achieving peace and we must condemn it in the strongest terms, defeat it and eradicate it. The attack forced the government of Israel to temporarily close the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif [The Noble Sanctuary] to conduct its investigation.”8

Arab-Israeli lawmakers warned of the potential for a Third Intifada due to the animosity created from closing the mosque.9 From a Muslim religious standpoint, the move was unacceptable and added fuel to the Israeli oppressive, occupation fire.

It was only the third time in the fifty-year history since Israel had controlled East Jerusalem, that the sacred site had been closed.10  To allay fears, Netanyahu promised the long-standing access would be preserved once the investigation was completed and true to his word, it was reopened by Sunday.

The Israeli government has blamed the terrorism and violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders compounded by social media accounts glorifying violence and encouraging attacks.

While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack in a conversation with Netanyahu, he also warned of repercussions for closing down the area.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Hussein called on Palestinians to defy the shutdown. “We have urged our people to rush to al-Aqsa today.” This turned up the volume of discontent. Thankfully even with inciting protests, Friday night passed without more terror attacks.

Now metal detectors have been brought in for security which had been removed since 2000. Although metal detectors are used throughout Israel, including other gates going to the Temple Mounts/Noble Sanctuary used by non-Muslims, the safety measure is being presented by the Palestinians as another sign of Israeli oppression – and happening at this revered religious site — the effect might be explosive.

Trying to look at it from their point of view, if we have to wait at the local drive thru for a couple of cars in front of us, we get agitated. Can you imagine tens of thousands of people moving through metal detectors like we have at airports? The change will cause increased delays for thousands of Muslim worshipers on their way to prayers, adding a new tributary of historic complaint and animosity.

Granted looking at it from the outside without years of resentment, Israel’s move makes sense – but that is not how the situation is portrayed – and so the embers smolder. We pray they don’t catch fire.

It is not my intention to judge, but to try and present the situation considering both sides’ perspectives. Either side lives with pain and suffering that I am grateful that I will never know.

Will the tinderbox ignite? I pray it doesn’t, but only time will tell.

I hope that for their sakes the pain will stop, and they will learn to live together in Peace. At times this alternative to the story’s ending seems like it will take a miracle. Peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as my Grandmother would say, It should only happen. Considering the alternative – they must crack the door open, and let the light in – they have to or…

I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…

References:

1.  Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel staff, “Families, friends mourn ‘beloved’ officers killed in Temple Mount attack,” Times of Israel. http://www.timesofisrael.com/families-friends-mourn-beloved-officers-killed-in-temple-mount-attack/ (accessed July 14, 2017).

2.  “Druze,” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druze (accessed July 14, 2017).

3.  “Druze,” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druze (accessed July 14, 2017).

4.   Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel staff, “Families, friends mourn ‘beloved’ officers killed in Temple Mount attack,” Times of Israel. http://www.timesofisrael.com/families-friends-mourn-beloved-officers-killed-in-temple-mount-attack/ (accessed July 14, 2017).

5.   Dov Leiber, “Jerusalem attacker on Facebook: ‘Tomorrow’s smile will be more beautiful,’” Times of Israel. http://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-attacker-on-facebook-tomorrows-smile-will-be-more-beautiful/ (accessed July 14, 2017).

6.  Dov Leiber, “Jerusalem attacker on Facebook: ‘Tomorrow’s smile will be more beautiful,’” Times of Israel. http://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-attacker-on-facebook-tomorrows-smile-will-be-more-beautiful/ (accessed July 14, 2017).

7.   Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel staff, “Families, friends mourn ‘beloved’ officers killed in Temple Mount attack,” Times of Israel. http://www.timesofisrael.com/families-friends-mourn-beloved-officers-killed-in-temple-mount-attack/ (accessed July 14, 2017).

8.   Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, “White House Strongly Defends Israel After Temple Mount Killings,” Breaking Israel News. https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/91539/world-reaction-deadly-attack-mixed-israel-reopens-temple-mount/#lYVZLlX4ipUYraCr.99 (accessed July 15, 2017).

9.   Lahav Harkov, Ben Lynfield, “Jerusalem: Arab-Israeli Lawmakers Warns of Third Intifada After Friday’s Killings at Aksa Mosque, Temple Mount — Closure of the mosque to prayers as a ‘dangerous precedent.’” Peace and Freedom. https://johnib.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/jerusalem-arab-israeli-lawmakers-warns-of-third-intifada-after-fridays-killings-at-aksa-mosque-temple-mount-closure-of-the-mosque-to-prayers-as-a-dangerous-precedent/ (accessed July 16, 2017).

10.   CBS/AP, “Deadly Attack at Jerusalem holy site in Old City.” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jerusalem-temple-mount-old-city-palestinian-gunmen-attack-israel/ (accessed July 14, 2017).

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