Temple Mount still unsafe

Some day, the Israeli government will have to open Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, to any Jews, Muslims or Christians who wish to go there. But that day is still a long way off.

The Jerusalem holy site – known as Temple Mount to Jews and Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims – has been under tight security since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Sept. 28, 2000, visit. Sharon was Israel’s opposition leader at the time. The monstrous wave of violence touched off by Sharon’s visit has devoured nearly 1,100 lives – threequarters of them Palestinian – and still shows no signs of abating. Since the violence began, Temple Mount has supposedly been off limits to everyone but Palestinians. In reality, though, the security restrictions in the area are so tight, Palestinians who do not live in Jerusalem are also virtually – if not admittedly – barred.

Despite all this, Israel’s security bureau, Shin Bet, issued a report Monday urging Sharon to reopen Temple Mount to Jews and Christians.

Their timing and seeming indifference to the current political and social climate casts serious doubt on the motives behind both Shin Bet’s issuance and Sharon’s consideration of the report.

But doubts aside, the reality of life in Israel shows, to any honest observer, that opening Temple Mount now would be a lethal, senselessly provocative folly.

Nothing could illustrate this more poignantly than last Friday’s despicable attack in Hadera. There, a Palestinian terrorist opened fire with an M-16 assault rifle in David’s Palace wedding hall during a 13-year-old girl’s bat mitzvah. Six people were killed and 30 wounded before people at the party brought down the gunman.

According to The Washington Post, a witness said, “Someone jumped him and smashed him over the head with a bottle of beer. He was punched and kicked Ö He started to have convulsions and then a policeman came and shot him in the head five times. He said to be careful, maybe the body was booby-trapped.”

The coming-of-age celebration for this girl was targeted for no other reason than that it was a Jewish celebration. And after it was over, some Israelis gathered outside the hall chanting “Death to the Arabs” while some Palestinians celebrated in their streets, firing their rifles into the air.

Since then, Israeli tanks have surrounded Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat’s home, Israeli F-16s bombed a Palestinian Authority compound, Israeli military personnel captured a Palestinian town and Palestinian militants issued repeated threats that they, too, would soon retaliate.

Saying a fiercely contested, deeply religious site is now safer than it has been in the past 16 months is ludicrous. Easing security restrictions at Temple Mount would only invite – and, in fact, ignite – more violence directed at innocents.

As with most of the region’s contested spots, Jews and Muslims both have a legitimate claim to be allowed to go to Temple Mount. However, telling people that it is safe to go there right now, in the spite of all the recent bloodshed, borders on negligent homicide.

It is not right, nor is it fair, but it is the reality of the situation. Sharon must act like a leader, not a politician, and do what is right for his people: keep the restrictions in place at Temple Mount.