If I had the opportunity to launch a radio advertising campaign that would reach our leaders, I think I would choose the slogan: "On Temple Mount don't be right – be smart." With a sort of scary cyclicality that repeats every five years, the Temple Mount is again about to bring bloodshed that makes its sanctity frightening and threatening.
Ten years after the Western Wall Tunnel was opened and five years after the bloody clash between Israeli Arabs and security forces, we're again at the edge of an abyss, which is hidden from view in the mists of sanctity, slogans, and an unending desire to "demonstrate to the other side."
Many words can be written about the hypocrisy of Islamic Movement leaders and the group of Arab Knesset members who were quick to tow the line. Anyone with eyes in their head and an honest heart knows that repairing a bridge at the Mugrabi Gate isn't part of an Israeli conspiracy to take over Temple Mount, and that those are indeed renovation works whose time has come.
The endless scope of the hypocrisy is further clarified in light of the fact that in recent years the Waqf authorities, with the Islamic Movement's encouragement, remove hundreds of tons of Temple Mount soil that contains archeological findings holding immense religious and historical significance. The Waqf also dug huge halls under the al-Aqsa Mosque and almost brought about the collapse of the holy Mount's supporting walls.
With this being the daily reality at the Mount, the arguments articulated by leaders of the Islamic Movement and those who back them show nothing but a lack of religious, public, and leadership integrity.
Publicize detailed work plans
Yet I'm not looking for Ra'ad Salah and his friends to show wisdom, but rather, for the wisdom, good judgment, and sense of responsibility meant to be exercised by our leaders every step of the way. In the volatile reality that characterizes the relationship between the Arab-Muslim minority and the Jewish majority in recent years, one must wonder in the face of the Israeli government's insistence to continue the works near the Mount immediately and without delay.
What kind of damage would have been caused had the government announced the works were being frozen for two weeks and invited Arab Knesset members and public figures to an open and dignified debate on the matter? If they complied with the invitation, it would have been great. Otherwise, the government could have at least shown that it wasn't insisting on acting stubbornly.
Why shouldn't the government publicize the detailed work plans and present them to the Arab public? Why should observers from the Arab community, relevant academicians or clerics, be invited to monitor the works? What would happen had our leaders used this opportunity to signal to the Arab community in Israel that its fears and outcries – even if those lack a factual basis – are being heard in Jerusalem?
A wonder of wonders: In current-day Israel, one bone that apparently belongs to a Byzantine soldier is enough to delay the paving of the Cross-Israel Highway for months. One protest by the ultra-Orthodox, who ignore all the religious rulings that permit the removal of graves for the benefit of the public, was enough to make our leaders realize the need to take feelings into account, reach compromises, engage in secret negotiations with community leaders, and all the other well-known methods for calming tensions.
However, when it comes to Israeli Arabs and their sensitivities, there is no room for these mechanisms on the Israeli agenda – here, it is suddenly appropriate for justice, public order, the rule of law and Israeli sovereignty to make their clear, uncompromising voice heard.
At this time, there is a huge struggle taking place among the Arab community in Israel between those who wish to violently separate from the State and those who despite all their frustrations hope that we can coexist here. To our regret, the former group is growing stronger. In light of the recent events, it appears that the Israeli government, without intending to do so, is providing a backwind to those who view it and its representatives as bitter enemies.
This isn't the first time we're contributing to the boost in the power of radicals, whose religious fervor is merely a veneer for their hatred. The troubling question is why the hell don't we learn from experience?
On second thought, why come up with a modern-day slogan for my radio campaign when I can go back to our heritage and again be jealous in the face of previous generations' wisdom. It was Ben Zoma who already taught us: "Who is a hero? He who controls his urges. Better one who is slow to anger than one who is mighty, and one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city."
Let's hope that in the coming week our leaders' heart will be filled with the heroism of Ben Zoma and not that of the zealots, who 2,000 years ago brought the fires to the Temple Mount's gates.
The writer is a reform rabbi and attorney