For Jews it is the Temple Mount where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. For Christians it is the site of the second Jewish Temple where Jesus prayed. For Muslims it is the Noble Sanctuary where Mohammed saddled his horse and galloped up into Heaven. This is a highly charged religious site, uniting the three major faiths in almost fanatical fervor for three totally different reasons.
At present it has become once again a hot-spot, with Israeli soldiers as the targets of a new intifada, with Muslim youths using stones and slingshots against the heavily armed Jewish military men. The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, accuses Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of planning to divide the compound, which includes two major Islamic shrines, the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Abbas said recently that Israeli officers “have no right to defile the site with their filthy feet”.
It is hard to see how believers can ever come to reconcile and mutually tolerate their conflicting claims to this “holy” site. This time around, three people died when a Muslim student attacked four Orthodox Jews killing two of them, before being shot by Israeli security forces. The killing has already spread to other cities in Israel and is likely to increase until another (temporary) truce agreement is reached – as both sides wait for the next outbreak of the periodic violence which expresses the permanent mutual hatred of the two religious persuasions. At least, for the moment, Christians have not been involved, but are in harm’s way and in danger of being caught in the crossfire.
Earlier this week, Abbas in New York appealed to the United Nations assembly to provide international protection for Palestinians. Meantime Jews are being stabbed in the streets of the Holy City. Once again Hitchens comes to mind : “Religion poisons everything”.