After senior government official blames Jewish prayer for Arab violence, rioting and terror, Zionist groups and religious freedom advocates speak out against his remarks.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai said that Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism — is a form of escalation and contributing to a dangerous “deterioration” of the status quo at the compound, sparking backlash from Zionist groups and advocates for religious freedom.
“There are a lot more Jews ascending the Temple Mount, and there’s already some that stop and pray on the way, which is forbidden,” Shai told Kan News on Saturday evening.
“We have here a certain escalation, a certain deterioration, also of the status quo,” he continued, insinuating that Arab violence could be triggered by Jewish prayer.
When asked by a Kan News journalist why Muslims are free to worship at the site and Jews are not, Shai did not say that he believed in freedom of religion for all — rather, he responded that “we have to do this in a careful way.”
He added that should Jews be allowed unfettered prayer rights on the Temple Mount, “the price all of us will pay afterwards will be huge,” suggesting that Israel does not have the ability to clamp down on Islamist terror sparked by anger over Jewish worship at the site.
Shai’s comments immediately drew pushback from several organizations that said Israel’s policy of appeasement towards Islamist extremists at the Temple Mount has not been effective and in fact exacerbates the problem.
“It’s disgraceful that while Hamas supporters are rioting and openly calling to murder Jews on the Temple Mount, a minister in the Israeli government is blaming the recent escalation on Jews trying to exercise their basic right to worship at Judaism’s holiest site,” Matan Peleg, CEO of Zionist NGO Im Tirtzu, told World Israel News (WIN).
“Shai’s remarks are cowardly and disgraceful, and rather than blaming law-abiding Jewish citizens for visiting the Temple Mount, he should be working to crack down on the radical Islamists wreaking havoc on the Temple Mount and destroying ancient Jewish antiquities.”
Peleg added that “the government’s current capitulation to radical Islamists on the Temple Mount will only lead to further chaos and terrorism.”
Tom Nisani, CEO of the Beyadenu organization advocating for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, was outraged by Shai’s comments.
“The same Minister of the Diaspora who opposes the immigration of Jews to Israel also sees the ascent of Jews to the Temple Mount as a ‘dangerous deterioration,’’ Nisani told WIN, referring to 2021 remarks by Shai that he would not encourage or prioritize Jewish immigration to Israel as part of the Diaspora Ministry’s goals.
“This man is delusional and a real danger to the image of the State of Israel.”
“It’s astounding that a minister in the Israeli government, and especially one who held a very senior position in the IDF, still doesn’t know who the enemy is or how to deal with them,” Chaim Silberstein, founder and chairman of the Keep Jerusalem NGO, told WIN.
Messages that attribute blame to Jews for worsening tensions at the site, Silberstein said, serve to “strengthen the fundamentalist Islamic terrorist elements and perpetuate their hostilities.”
It’s critical that “violent and terror elements, who use the holy sites as a launching pad for attacking Jews, will be dealt with zero tolerance and an iron fist until complete calm and quiet is achieved” at the site, he added.
Silberstein noted that “the original status quo on the Temple Mount has been worsened over the years not by the Jews, but by the Muslims who greatly increased their control over the Mount at the expense of Israel.” The Israeli authorities must make it clear that the compound is a Jewish holy site, and that Jewish access to the site is non-negotiable, he said.
“Unless Minister Shai and the Israel government internalize these lessons, communicate them to the public in general, including the international community, and behave like sovereigns and not confused outsiders, we are doomed to suffer interminable violence and terror,” Silberstein concluded.