Tensions Rise again on Temple Mount

Groups of Israelis have been accused of ‘storming’ the Al Aqsa Mosque compound over the last few days. A group of 114 that included 13 members of Israel Antiquities Authority are reported to have done so on Monday 8th August, under the protection of Israeli policemen.

Security presence in the compoundPhoto from IMEMC article

Then another group of 154 is reported to have entered the compound on Tuesday 9th August and taken a ‘provocative tour’ around the courtyards whilst taking photos and chanting slogans from the Talmud. This prompted the Muslims who were present to confront them with cries of “Allahu Akhbar!” A cry that is becoming all too familiar around the world.

Israeli news group Haaretz state that arrests and detention of employees of the Islamic trust that controls the site have sparked this latest increase in tensions. Renovation and repair work that the Waqf initiated have become a particular point of contention.

But the timing is important for Jews. When the Sabbath ends later this week, there will be no celebrations. Instead, Jews around the world will go to synagogues and Chabad centres for evening services which will be followed by the reading of the Book of Lamentations – Jeremiah’s mourning of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

These events will take place because the day following the Sabbath, i.e. the evening of Saturday 13th August through to the evening of Sunday 14th, is Tisha B’Av, the day on which Jews commemorate the destruction of both the First and the Second Temples in Jerusalem, as well as the later dispersion of the Jewish people around the world.

It is a day of mournful reflection for Jews upon which there is even a ban on most Torah study, since “the commands of God ... gladden the heart.”

Thus the tensions are likely to escalate even further as we approach Sunday 14th August. It is an appropriate time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.