Israeli lawmaker visits flashpoint religious site

JERUSALEM Tue Jul 20, 2010 12:37pm EDT

1 of 5. Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon (R) walks past a Palestinian woman on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City July 20, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A senior lawmaker of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing party on Tuesday visited a flashpoint religious site in Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims, a move that has sparked violence in the past.

Under armed police escort, Danny Danon, a deputy parliament speaker, toured the site of an ancient Jewish temple, a plaza home to the al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, and said he thought Jews should be permitted freer access there.

A group of Muslim protesters shouted "Allahu Akhbar," or God is Greatest, as Danon, trailed by armed police and dozens of Israeli and Western tourists, strolled around the area known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

But despite the tense atmosphere there was no violence or confrontations during the lawmaker's hour-long visit.

Danon told reporters at the nearby Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, before the climb to the Temple Mount, that his visit was to mark the ninth of Ab, a day of fasting marking the day the Roman-era Jewish temple was razed.

Past visits by senior Israeli officials to the site at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute have sparked violence, notably in 2000 when a visit by Ariel Sharon, then an opposition leader, set off a Palestinian uprising and years of bloodshed.

Israel considers Jerusalem as its capital including Arab East Jerusalem, which it captured in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of a future state.

Disputes over the city have played a key role in hindering progress in U.S.-backed efforts to resume direct peace talks between the sides.

Palestinians are angry at Israeli plans published in the past few months to expand housing construction in East Jerusalem, and destroy dozens of Palestinian homes Israel says were built illegally.

"I don't see any provocation here," Danon, a Likud party lawmaker, replied when asked by reporters whether his tour of the holy site in the old walled city may ratchet up tensions.

Danon said he wanted a firsthand look at security procedures and to press the case for permitting Jews to pray at the site.

"There is full religious freedom for Jews and Muslims on the Temple Mount," Danon said. "But it is more difficult for the Jew than the Muslim to go and pray on the Temple Mount. This is a distortion that must be corrected."

"If Jews want to go and pray on the Temple Mount then they should be allowed to do it," he added.

Israeli police often permit tourist visits to the holy compound but discourage Jews from worshipping there, diverting them to the nearby Western Wall to try and prevent violence.

No Jewish worship took place at the site during Danon's tour on Tuesday, and all were under strict orders to avoid entering al-Aqsa. Afterwards, a small group of Jewish settlers said some prayers outside the compound's gate, where they intoned a Hebrew psalm that calls for the holy temple to someday be rebuilt.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

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Comments (3)
gemini51 wrote:
I disagree about dismantling the Al Aqsa Mosque. True it was a story that Sal Al Din used to unite Moslems in reclaiming Jerusalem from the Crusaders, but it has come to mean much more to the Moslems. If we want religious freedom, we have to start with mutual respect (tolerance is not enough). However, I do take issue with the Arab East Jerusalem designation. That only became such after the 1920 and 1928 riots against Jews who lived in what is now called East Jerusalem and had for centuries (under a protected status that dates to the 12TH century Moslem empire and later the 16TH century Turkish Sultanate). Actually, the Jews were murdered and driven out by the so called Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (a British construct) who also was one of the planners of the “final solution” death camps for the Nazi regieme, Adolph Echemann’s friend and confidant, and uncle to Yassar Arafat.

Jul 20, 2010 1:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RBurton wrote:
And it is based on such myth and mythology of “temples” and ‘kingdoms” and the fables of “Davids” and “Solomons” debunked by even Israeli archeologists that a ‘modern’ and ‘democratic’ state bases itself.

It is based on exactly such nonsense that a woman cannot pray at the Wailing Wall… because she is a woman. The last arrest was made less than two weeks ago, according to the Israeli paper Haaretz! In fact, according to the very same mythology, a woman is too inferior to pray for Yahweh.

I suppose, when Jewish women are accorded equal rights in practicing Judaism, Muslims should allow Jews to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque.

Jul 20, 2010 2:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
nerdball31415 wrote:
Dear RBurton,

Please be polite, and fair, regarding the use of words such as ‘myth’.

Also, please do know that there are many currents in Judaism, several of which started to allow women equal rights quite some time ago (egalitarian ones).

May I point out that women have the right to vote in our Western democracies since not so long (decades, right?)… Western democracy=200years at most (with ok some roots back from 13th century, e.g. Magna Carta, the northen Europe Hanseatic League, etc.). Judaism=3000years…

Let us not even open the debate regarding Muslim society’s current status, and their human rights, before attempting comparisons and such inappropriate judgments as those ending your comment above.

Thanks.

Jul 20, 2010 7:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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