Buried amid news of Israel’s new government and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were accusations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had quietly struck a secret deal with Jordan regarding the Temple Mount.
According to charges filed by right-wing activists, Netanyahu and Jordan, which officially oversees religious matters atop the Temple Mount, agreed to bar entry to both Jews and Arabs alike for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
Every Friday, tens of thousands of Arab Muslims crowd into the courtyards and mosques of the Temple Mount, representing a very real threat of outbreak.
However, in recent weeks, Arabs have for some reason been allowed to again ascend the Temple Mount, while the ban on Jewish entry has been maintained.
Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the Netanyahu government until next Monday to respond to the petition claiming that it was barring Jews from Judaism’s holiest site as part of a deal with Jordanian Muslim authorities.
New facts on the ground
Already, Muslim authorities are trying to exploit the situation to establish a new status quo under which Jews will be permanently barred from the Temple Mount.
In an interview with the Palestinian Information Center on March 26, just days after the Temple Mount deal was secretly concluded, Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, head of the Jerusalem council of Islamic endowments, had this to say:
“The temporary cessation of prayers in Al-Aqsa were meant to guard from the spread of the coronavirus….The closure would be from worshippers entering Al-Aqsa, yet, it is full of guards, clerks and gatekeepers, praying in houses of worship there….Today there aren’t any forced entries by groups of [Jewish] settlers and extremists, but if the occupation will change its policy on the current situation in Al-Aqsa, then we shall surely react accordingly to every incident.”
Israel likes to pat itself on the back for preserving freedom of religion for all faiths within its borders. And it is generally correct in doing so, except in one location: the Temple Mount.
Despite the fact that it is the holiest site in the world to Jews and Bible-believing Christians, and that after 2,000 years the Jewish people once again control the area, Israel is afraid to exercise true sovereignty atop the sacred plateau.
Tantrum-like outbursts of Muslim violence over Jews making even the slightest religious expression at the site have resulted in institutionalized religious discrimination against Jews (and by extension Christians).