News from July 12 to July 18

Tisha B'Av tensions and honorable mentions

Hey everyone. As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns, or ideas for how to make News of the Jews better at newsofthejews@gmail.com. You can follow me on Twitter @skaps1. If you are looking to watch something Jewish or Israeli, definitely check out the News of the Jews Media Guide! It was a relatively quiet week this week so I’m only going to do one story and some honorable mentions.

Tensions rise in Jerusalem as a small group of Israelis commemorates Tisha B’av on the Temple Mount:

Background: Last week, Israeli reports emerged suggesting that the Israeli police had been permitting organized prayer on the Temple Mount. The reports were very controversial as Israel has operated under a status quo that prohibits Jewish prayer at the Jordanian-administered holy site for decades. While Jews may access the Temple Mount, they may not recite any bible verses or engage in prayer. 

What happened? Yesterday was Tisha B’Av, the yearly commemoration of the destruction of the two Jewish temples that once stood on the Temple Mount. During the day, more than 1,600 Israelis ascended to the Temple Mount, and Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque reportedly barricaded themselves in and clashed with Israeli police. Palestinian leaders said that the Israeli police cleared out Muslim worshippers to make room for the visiting Jews. As Israel’s apparently new policy threatened to upend the Temple Mount status quo, Prime Minister Bennett issued a statement indicating that both Jews and Muslims would have “freedom of worship” at the Temple Mount. It is unclear if Bennett and the Israeli government intend to formally change the prayer prohibition.

How did people react? Here are some notable reactions:

Jordan: “The Israeli actions against the mosque are rejected and condemned, and represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel’s obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem.”

PM Bennett’s Office: “Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Public Security Minister Bar-Lev and Israel Police Inspector General Shabtai and thanked them for managing the events on the Temple Mount with responsibility and consideration, while maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount...Prime Minister Bennett emphasized that freedom of worship on the Temple Mount will be fully preserved for Muslims as well, who will soon be marking the fast of the Day of Arafah and the Eid al-Adha.”

Turkey: “Israeli security forces have once again violated the sanctity of al-Haram al-Sharif by allowing racist Jewish groups to raid Al-Aqsa Mosque, attacking Palestinian civilians praying in the area and detaining Palestinian civilians, including children and women, leading to images that offended human dignity...The continuation of such provocations, at a time when the memories of the atmosphere of tension, escalation, and conflict caused by Israel’s attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque in the holy month of Ramadan are still fresh in our minds, is extremely dangerous”

Ra’am (Islamist party in Israel’s governing coalition): “The Al-Aqsa Mosque, in its 144 dunams, is solely the property of Muslims, and no one else has any right to it….the events that may result from it could inflame the situation in Jerusalem and the entire region, leading to a catastrophic religious war.”

Mahmoud Habbash (Religious Affairs Advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas): “Our people will not accept any attempt to change the historical status of the holy site. The occupation state has no religious, historical or legal right to any inch of occupied Jerusalem and the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque...The Palestinian bond in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa will continue and escalate, because we are exercising our legitimate right to protect our land and our holy sites and to defend ourselves.”

Why is this important? Jerusalem is always a powder keg. Even though the Tisha B’Av situation was only about one and a half thousand people, it was still highly symbolic of perceived Israeli encroachment on the Temple Mount. The status quo has been in place for decades and any attempt to change it will likely be met with a fierce response from Palestinians and the Muslim world. In the coming days and months, keep an eye on Jerusalem as the situation there could easily devolve into a wider, regional conflict. 

Anything else? It was not only Israeli-Palestinian relations that were strained at the Temple Mount last week. During Tisha B’Av commemorations at the egalitarian part of the Western Wall, far-right Orthodox Jews disrupted a Conservative Jewish service to install a gender separation barrier. The allocation of space for egalitarian prayer remains a controversial topic in Israel, though no major change to the status quo is likely under the current government.

Further reading: https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/07/18/bennett-arab-lawmakers-spar-over-temple-mount-access/

Honorable Mentions:

“Israeli Companies Aided Saudi Spying Despite Khashoggi Killing” by Ronen Bergman and Mark Mazzetti (The New York Times) (This is going to be a huge story as the NSO group has extensive ties to Israeli intelligence)

“How Israel became a judo powerhouse” by Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)

“‘Why can’t I be the first?’ Orthodox baseball prospect Jacob Steinmetz on the history he hopes to make” by Rob Charry (JTA)

“Google Exec Out After Admitting He Used to Be Antisemitic” by Aaron Bandler (Jewish Journal)

“Barcelona requests not to play in Jerusalem, and its Israeli opponent cancels their match” by Ben Sales (JTA)

“Poll: 25% of American Jewish Voters Believe Israel is an Apartheid State” by Aaron Bandler (Jewish Journal)

Months after UN lifted arms embargo on Iran, ‘dam hasn’t burst’ yet by Yaakov Lappin (JNS)

“Countdown has begun: Israel redoubles efforts for second attempt to land on moon” by Josh Hasten (JNS)

“A Black Jewish filmmaker brings her dual identities to BET” by Gabby Deutch (Jewish Insider)

“Biden gives UNRWA $135m. after agency condemns anti-Israel hatred” by Tovah Lazaroff (The Jerusalem Post)

“Which Israeli athletes have a shot at the Olympic podium?” by Abigail Klein Leichman (JNS)

“Netanyahu urged Trump to strike Iran after election loss - New Yorker” (The Jerusalem Post) (Defense Minister Benny Gantz denied the report, saying that he would have known)

“No Rockets, but Anxiety Persists in Southern Israel” by Brent McDonald, Danielle Miller, Oren Rosenfeld, and David Blumenfeld (The New York Times)

“Former Official Wanted by Mexico Takes Refuge in Israel” by Ronen Bergman and Oscar Lopez (The New York Times)

“Presidential candidate with Jewish parent could be disqualified if a new law passes in the Democratic Republic of Congo” by David Ian Klein (The Forward)

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