Friday, September 13, 2013

13-Sep-13: Jews, Jerusalem and Yom Kippur

The Palestinian Arabs were handed control of the sacred Temple
Mount by Israel's Minister of Defence, Moshe Dayan in 1967. Football-playing
Moslem Arab children are a very visible part of
what is there today. [Image Source]
Most Israelis, by far, want to see peace with the Arabs in general, with the Palestinian Arabs in particular, and are willing to make sacrifices and compromises so that it can happen. We're not open to disagreement on this. Anyone who knows Israelis in whatever degree knows this is true. The arguments about it are all in relation to detail.

This being so, we are endlessly astonished at how little criticism (relatively speaking) the Mahmoud Abbas-operated Palestinian Authority gets. It is a terrorism-friendly, corrupt and hateful political organization, led by a man whose academic career was built on Holocaust-denial. Review its activities in the two decades since the Oslo Agreement and you grasp why people continue to suffer and die in the course of the war the PA has waged against Israel's.

Now keep those two preceding paragraphs in mind while we put them into a specific context.

At sunset today, the Jewish world goes into Yom Kippur mode. While there are many people, and some Jews among them, who mistakenly believe its significance is in being the anniversary of a war of the same name, Yom Kippur is in reality the centerpiece of Jewish synagogue life - and has been for as long as there have been Jews. It's a day marked by holiness. Even Jews with relatively weak connections to their people's roots know about and respect Yom Kippur at some level. In religious terms, it's one of the great equalizers of the Jewish people: almost all of us do it.

Temple Mount Arab football-playing child [Image Source]
Paging through the mahzor, the book of Yom Kippur prayers, it's hard to not notice (among several interwoven dominant themes) the major role played by what's termed in English "the Service". Avodah, in Hebrew. Wikipedia says this:
A recitation of the sacrificial service of the Temple in Jerusalem traditionally features prominently in both the liturgy and the religious thought of the holiday. Specifically, the Avodah ("service") in the Musaf prayer recounts in great detail the sacrificial ceremonies of the Yom Kippur Korbanot (sacrificial offerings) that are recited in the prayers but have not been performed for 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. [Wikipedia]
We mention this for entirely non-religious reasons. As JJ Goldberg points out in this week's Forward ["A Clarifying Moment of Disunity on Yom Kippur | The Ritual That Divides Us On the Day We Are Most United"], the Avodah is "one of those things that either you get or you don’t". In our words, what he means is: Jews have views, and the range of opinions about what we ought to be thinking when we remember the sacrificial service conducted by the Jewish priests (the Cohanim, plural of Cohen) is wide.

But whether you see the ritual killing of animals for religious purposes in positive terms or negative, one aspect is beyond controversy. Jews did this for as long as the two Temples in Jerusalem stood. In ancient times, when Jews were the sovereign power in Jerusalem, this is what we Jews did there.

Temple Mount: It's a holy site sacred to two religions, or it's a
football pitch. The PA invites you to take your pick [Image Source]
The Palestinian Authority sees things very, very differently. Far from there being an undoubted, documented, historical connection of the most intimate kind between the Jews and Jerusalem (and of course the larger land in which Jerusalem is situated), the PA propagates an increasingly extremist culture of denial/hatred concerning Jews, Jerusalem and this land.

The Temple? Never existed. Unbroken Jewish connection to Jerusalem from the earliest ancient times? A modern invention, based on a hoax. Jewish entitlement to walk peacefully in 2013 on the grounds of the Temple Mount which, beyond any reasonable doubt even of the extremely cynical kind, was and is the single most holy place on earth for adherents of the Jewish faith? A provocation.

Now let's hear Khaled Abu Toameh, who knows the inner workings of the PA better than any other serious journalist, bring us up-to-date in the Jerusalem Post:
Analysis: PA campaigns against Jews at Temple Mount
KHALED ABU TOAMEH | Jerusalem Post | September 11, 2013
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday stepped up its rhetorical attacks on Israel concerning the Temple Mount, condemning visits by Jews to the holy site as a provocation. Permitting Jews to enter the Temple Mount was a “green light to settlers to escalate their assaults against Palestinians and their holy sites and properties,” a spokesman for the PA government in Ramallah warned.
The PA claims that the visits by Jews to the Temple Mount are part of an Israeli scheme to “Judaize and divide” the site with the ultimate goal of rebuilding a Jewish Temple.
The visits are described by the PA-controlled media as attempts by “hordes of settlers and Jewish extremists to storm and desecrate the Aksa Mosque.” The PA campaign against Jewish visitors has triggered several violent protests at the Temple Mount over the past few months. Jerusalem Police have arrested dozens of Palestinians involved in the rioting and incitement and some have been served with court orders to stay away from the Temple Mount. But these measures have hardly contributed to easing tensions as the PA leadership appears to be intent on escalating its campaign.
On Tuesday, a group linked to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction went as far as calling for “fedayeen [guerrilla] operations” against Israel on Friday in protest against the visits by Jews to the Temple Mount.
The PA leadership has yet to distance itself from this call by the Aksa Martyrs Brigades to launch terrorist attacks.
It’s not clear if the group’s threat to renew terrorist attacks is real. But the latest threat should be seen in the context of the Palestinians’ drive to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount.
What is the PA trying to achieve through this campaign? First, the PA leadership is trying to show Palestinians and all Muslims that it is keen on defending Islamic holy sites against Israeli “conspiracies” at a time when the Arab and Islamic countries are doing nothing.
Second, the PA is probably trying to divert attention from its controversial decision to resume the peace talks with Israel. The PA has come under heavy criticism for dropping its preconditions for returning to the negotiations, including a full cessation of settlement construction.
Temple Mount, Arab child, football [Image Source]
Third, the campaign is designed to depict Israel as a country that has no respect for other people’s religion and holy sites. This would make it easier for the PA to demand control not only over the Temple Mount, but also over east Jerusalem, under the pretext that Israel is violating international laws and conventions in the city.
This campaign surrounding one of Islam’s most holiest sites could also result in another wave of violence or, even worse, a third intifada. The second uprising, called the Aksa Intifada, erupted in late 2000 after the PA leadership waged a similar campaign, telling Palestinians that Israel was seeking to destroy the Aksa Mosque.
The PA's campaign of lies, distortions and historical invention is no random thing. It belongs to a strategy. And as strategies go, it's effective. Think when you last heard a commentator or read an analyst who dismissed with the requisite scorn what Abbas and the imams who serve him say about the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Most people either don't know history, don't understand Jewish culture and religion, and/or simply lack the rigour and courage to stand up to those, like the PA, who have consigned to the dust-heap some of the most significant historical accounts known to mankind.

Tomorrow in synagogues throughout the world, Jews will be remembering again (as we do constantly, daily) Jerusalem and its central role in our lives, exactly as they have for thousands of Days of Atonement before this year's. Perhaps we ought to invite along some analysts and journalists. Or some PA officials.

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