Tensions on the Mount

Major events around the world have dominated the news recently – especially the huge migration of people into Europe. But other important events have been pushed out of the headlines.

Since the beginning of the Jewish New Year festival of Rosh Hashanah, on Sunday 13th September, tensions between Israelis and Arabs have escalated significantly in Jerusalem. For several days there have been clashes between security forces and protesters in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Clashes like this often occur during Jewish festivals, when Jews like to visit the Temple Mount – the site of their ancient temple. But for years there have been restrictions on access to the area because Muslims consider the Al-Aqsa Mosque to be the third holiest site in Islam.

Israel’s government believes the site should be more open to others as well as Muslims. But access for people from other religions is severely restricted, and Jews are not allowed to pray in the compound because of the violent reaction that it provokes.

This year the tensions and violence seem to have reached new levels because Muslims fear that the Israeli government might change the rules governing the site.

As the protests have become more violent, the government has started to pursue stronger measures to control the violence – motivated by the death of one Israeli who lost control of his car when it was hit by rocks thrown by protesters.

The tensions have now escalated to the stage where members of Israel’s government are in contact with Jordanian officials, seeking to diffuse tensions. And they are even considering using snipers to help control those who are determined to protest in a violent manner.

These tensions are likely to continue to increase as we live through the ten days of awe and arrive at the Jewish festivals of Yom Kippur (22nd September) and Sukkot (27th September to 4th October).

Now is a good time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem!