While the world watches tensions grow on the Temple Mount a side aspect of the conflict is going unnoticed, a “war” for the Temple Mount that is being fought with dead bodies.
On Tuesday, a Palestinian terrorist threw a firebomb into a police post next to the Dome of the Rock. A policeman was seriously wounded and riots ensued after police arrested the terrorist. The police responded by closing all entrances to the site and ordering everyone to leave.
The confrontation comes at a time when tensions are high at the Temple Mount. Almost three weeks ago, Palestinians rioted on the Temple Mount, breaking into an area adjacent to Sha’ar HaRachamim (Gate of Mercy, also known as the Golden Gate) in the Temple Mount compound. The site was locked 16 years ago by court order after it was used as a meeting place for a Hamas-affiliated organization.
The Israeli police have allowed Muslim prayers at the site and have thus far avoided confrontations. The Waqf (Muslim authority) requested permission from the Israeli police to bring in materials to convert the site to a Mosque and their request has not been rejected.
An Israeli delegation journeyed to Jordan last Thursday to discuss a solution with the government. In the wake of the failed talks, King Abdullah of Jordan traveled to the U.S. over the weekend to meet with members of Congress.
But the riots that took place near Sha’ar HaRachamim were not the only ones that occurred in the Old City. Late in the afternoon, a Palestinian funeral procession was prevented from entering the Temple Mount by the Israeli police, since the site had been closed off due to the firebomb attack. A riot ensued.
“It is indeed very strange to bring a dead body to the Temple Mount but this happens almost every day,” Fried told Breaking Israel News. “It should be noted that the Yusifa Cemetery outside of Sha’ar HaRachamim is technically closed and has been so by court order for 20 years. But the Palestinians continue to bury there unhindered.”
According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will arrive via the Sha’ar HaRachamim. The Ottomans built the cemetery in front of the gate in order to prevent the Jewish Messiah from arriving.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, explained that the cemetery was established out of the Muslims misunderstanding Jewish eschatology.
“They believed that the Jewish Messiah would be a Kohen (man of the priestly caste) but this is not correct,” Dr. Kedar explained to Breaking Israel News. “Also, a cemetery of non-Jews does not have ritual impurity. So the Muslim cemetery outside of Sha’ar HaRachamim will not pose any problem for the Jewish Messiah.”
Dr. Kedar explained that according to Islamic law, it was not problematic to bring a dead body into the Dome of the Rock.
“The Temple Mount really has no sanctity or special status for them,” Dr. Kedar explained. “They do not bring the bodies into al-Aqsa (the silver-domed structure on the Temple Mount) because that is a mosque, a place of prayer.”
“But the Arabs have a different perception of how death fits into their service of God. The concept of shahid (martyrdom) is to die for Allah. For them, death is part of life, but not in the way that we see it.”
Dr. Kedar noted that even though the practice of bring a dead body into the Dome of the Rock seems bizarre to Jews and Christians, it is not so for Muslims. He told an anecdote to illustrate his point.
Kedar has a colleague in Jordan whom he occasionally consults regarding translations from Arabic. One time, he (Kedar) was searching for the Arabic word for ‘normal’ as it pertained to human behavior. He was not successful in finding a suitable word that suited his needs; so he asked his friend. She informed him that there was no such word in Arabic. He was perplexed but she offered an explanation.
“I’d like to see someone spend 30 days in Mecca for Ramadan and come out of it ‘normal’,” she told Dr. Kedar.