Mid-East Backseat Drivers
Two pivots in time. Two pivotal moments in the past few weeks.
The first is the announcement of the assassination of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, founder and head of ISIS. This strikes a rather personal chord, which makes it so pivotal to me. The world has not seen the likes of ISIS perhaps since the atrocities of the Nazis in World War 2. Not only has my grandmother survived the horrors of Auschwitz, I have seen ISIS up close. During my service in the IDF my platoon was ambushed by ISIS along the border with Syria. ISIS had been well entrenched in an abandoned UN base along the Israeli-Syrian border for years and had since turned it into a prison. From only a few kilometers from the border, the atrocities ISIS is famous for were plainly visible by us daily. We survived the ambush and won the battle, removing the threat not only from Israel’s borders - our borders - but from the poor future victims that landed in the ISIS torture prison. The assassination of the ISIS terrorist head symbolizes the slow eventual defeat of this evil presence in the world.
The reason I mention this in the context of the Temple Mount is to demonstrate some of the complexity constantly present on the mount. The general majority of Islam views the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in the south of the Temple Mount, to be a holy site after Mecca and Medina in the Arabian Peninsula. Without a doubt, this is why ISIS included Jerusalem in their maps of all territory belonging to the Caliphate. ISIS has been very clear with their intentions to ‘liberate Jerusalem’ after they ‘rid the world of Muslim apostates’ - referring to Muslims that do not accept the ISIS Caliphate.
This is the same reason Hamas has traditionally rallied around Al-Aqsa Mosque to inspire various attacks on Israel and its civilians. The Hamas military wing image even features a motif of the Golden Dome (although this isn’t the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself) and uses phrases like ‘Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger’ in its media outlets. Hamas has been caught many times being active on the Temple Mount and some Imams have even been arrested for inciting violence and hatred during Friday Sermons on the Temple Mount.
But not every group in Muslim politics interested in having some control of the Temple Mount are of the likes of these extremists. Jordan and many Palestinian nationalists have been at odds for many decades for control of the holy site. Since 1950 when Jordan annexed the west bank of the Jordan river, including the Temple Mount, the Jordanian Wakf, the religious authority backed by the Jordanian government has been responsible for the site. This situation has remained even after the 1967 Six Day war where Jordan was fought back out of the west bank and Israel annexed East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount to Israeli territory. This has led to bouts of animosity between Palestinian nationals, including the PLO, and Jordan. These two conflicting sides have been forced to work together recently by fear of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ which has been seen to contain the potential of removing both Jordanian and Palestinian influence on the holy site.
Other countries, as well, nudge their foot through the Temple Mount door. Turkey is a perfect example of this. Turkey has consistently promoted a form of neo-Ottoman agenda in East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount through various organizations that represent it and attempt to ‘conserve Ottoman history and awareness among residents of East Jerusalem.’
What I’m trying to show here are some of the geopolitical complexities that can affect the Temple Mount in big ways. In future posts I will attempt to delve into some of these realities in addition to many others. The situation on the Temple Mount is in constant flux and there is a fragile balance up there that can be at once fascinating and tense.
In the next post I want to share the second pivotal moment I mentioned and how it relates to the fast-paced big Jewish-Israeli social change on the Temple Mount.