A group of US Congressmen in Israel on a working policy trip were attacked by a mob of Muslims while visiting the Temple Mount Tuesday. The lawmakers are part of a delegation organized by the Israel Allies Foundation, which works with Congress and parliaments around the world to mobilize political support for Israel based on Judeo-Christian values.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and his wife Elizabeth Jenkins, arrived in Israel to discuss US policy with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Before their meeting, the group gathered at the Temple Mount for a guided tour. Immediately upon ascending the holy site, the lawmakers were surrounded by an angry horde of Muslims, who harassed and insulted the group.
Elizabeth Jenkins was verbally harassed as well, with Waqf guards telling her she needed to cover up, despite being already dressed in a long sleeve shirt and calf length skirt. Police eventually arrived and broke up the melee, allowing the tour to continue.
However, the harassment did not stop there. The delegation’s tour guide was stopped by Waqf guards when he produced a map illustrating Israeli control over Jerusalem. A Palestinian man approached the group, insisting they use the term Dome of the Rock, or Al-Aqsa, forbidding them from using the term Temple Mount. Official Waqf guards arrived and attempted to take away the guide’s maps and diagrams. The guide resisted, responding that his actions were entirely legal.
“There was an effort to completely suppress not only any expression of religious conviction, but any articulation of historical reality,” Franks told The Jerusalem Post.
The group was again surrounded by a mob of Palestinian men, who shouted angry slurs at the lawmakers. Police were called in a second time to restore order and provide protection to allow the tour to continue.
As they were leaving, a group of Muslim women began to yell at them “Allahu Akhbar” (Allah is the greatest), shouting at them to leave. The women are part of the “Murbitat”, a group that gets paid by the Waqf and The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement to harass non-Muslims who go up to the Temple Mount.
Jenkins was disturbed by the confrontation, saying, “It was a place of great religious meaning to me as a Christian, a destination…that me and my wife were looking forward to, and then to have the confrontation from the Muslims who yelled and shouted at us and my wife individually…To literally step on the Temple Mount and be confronted was certainly shocking.”
“I wish it was something the world understood more and was more aware of,” Franks said. “Even when visiting a historical site there is harassment, because of people who want to rewrite history.”
Rabbi Yehudah Glick, founder of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, related to Breaking Israel News his conversation with the lawmakers following their harrowing experience on the Temple Mount.
“I told them that when Isaiah said all the nations would be coming to the Temple Mount, he meant also from Arizona, Pennsylvania and West Virginia too!” Glick said. “They all spoke of the privilege of being on the Temple Mount.”
“However, they told me they were shocked to see the situation on the Temple Mount with their own eyes,” Glick continued. “Representative Keith said, ‘If someone would have told me this is the situation, I would not have believed it. I see the harassment towards people just because they are wearing a Yarmulka. This took me decades back to what happened to blacks. I was shocked.'”
Glick implored each lawmaker to publicize their experience to shed attention on the worsening situation on the Temple Mount. “I related to each one that their visit is not merely a private one and that they should please pass the message on and tell the world about the insane situation on Temple Mount.”
Though the police were present and prevented any of the delegates from being physically attacked, Franks was not entirely satisfied with their response. “In general, when there is a lack of resolve in protecting religious freedoms, it emboldens those who have no compunction about suppressing it.”
This is not the first time visiting US politicians have been harassed on the Temple Mount. Republican Congressman Dennis Ross visited the site in February and received the same treatment.
It should be noted that the US State Department, in its annual International Religious Freedom Report, criticized Israel for its policy of not allowing non-Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount, noting also that “Non-Muslim religious symbols are not allowed to be worn on the Temple Mount.”
The Israeli High Court ruled earlier this year to uphold the rights of non-Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount and criticized the Israeli police for infringing on that right. Nonetheless, Israeli Police still arrest non-Muslims who make any motions that may be construed as prayer, even forbidding religious Jews to drink water on the Mount since they say a blessing before drinking.