Mideast: tension rises at Temple Mount compound

Ultra-orthodox Jews and Muslims face off over building plan

25 September, 19:27

    A view of Old Jerusalem A view of Old Jerusalem

    (ANSAmed) - JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 25 - The Temple Mount(also known as Dome of the Rock and Haram Al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary) compound has been the scene of recurring conflict over the past few weeks, with police in anti-guerrilla gear watching over young Palestinians armed with stones and bottles facing off against ultra-Orthodox Jews determined to defy prohibitions, force their presence onto the scene and recite their prayers.

    Anxiety levels are soaring on the Palestinian side. Leaders feel that Israel has opened a new front in the age-old battle, and are preparing to authorise Jewish prayers at the location considered holy to both faiths but currently under the control of the Waqf, the authority for the protection of Muslim assets in Palestine. This is in turn seen as preparation for the potentially incendiary decision to build a new Temple (two thousand years after the first) in the perimeter of the two previous ones, which were razed to the ground by Nebuchadnezzar (586 B.C.) and Titus (70 A.D.).

    Israeli secret services are keeping a close eye on the enormous powderkeg. An ill-fated attack by Jewish zealots on the Al-Aqsa mosque - which for over 1,300 years has been the third holiest site in Islam - could cause Muslims worldwide to rise up against Israel. The ultra-Orthodox are followed and those who might 'go too far' - through ritual sacrifices at Temple Mount, for example - are stopped and rendered harmless. This summer, however, religious extremism seems to be especially strong. Two months ago the nationalist newspaper Makor Rishon reported that an Israeli architect was designing a new, stately Temple that would in a few decades look out over a Jewish Jerusalem as vast as London. As if taken directly from some high tech pseudo-Biblical prophecy, the far right dreams that Jewish pilgrims coming from the banks of the Mediterranean might be able to head to an imaginary Jerusalem Sanctuary at 300 kilometres an hour in an underground capsule. This ''futuristic dream'' is especially disturbing due to the fact that its proponents include two Jewish former terrorists. The project could have been brushed off simply as an oddity had Israel's current Building Minister Uri Ariel, from the nationalist-religious right, not said in recent weeks that ''we need to build a real Temple on the Temple Mount''. Ariel then went to Temple Mount himself and, ignoring the police, recited a sacerdotal blessing. The Muslim world reacted heatedly. Palestinian websites now report even regular trips by Israelis to Temple Mount as if they were battle cries. Muslim leaders have called on the young to create barricades ''to block the enemy's path'', and friction with police is a constant. Hamas also weighed in on Wednesday, saying from Gaza that there would be a ''day of rage'' in Jerusalem. (ANSAmed).

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