“Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up—the tribes of the Lord—to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’” (Psalm 122:3–7)
In advance of Passover, which starts April 22, and Independence Day on May 12, Israel is increasing security at major hot spots around the country, as well as reaching out to spiritual leaders, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan to express a desire for continued calm.
False accusations charging Israel with “disrupting the status quo on the Temple Mount” or “endangering al-Aqsa” have been enough to fuel Islamic riots on Jewish holidays. Such claims were one trigger for the Palestinian Arab and Muslim violence that began after the Jewish New Year in September.
In a meeting at his Jerusalem residence Wednesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told Christian, Muslim, and Jewish spiritual leaders that the Muslim festival of Nabi Shuyab as well as the Christian Orthodox Easter and Jewish Passover “have more than once turned into flashpoints of tension, friction, and violence.”
“Any incitement and utterance has the ability to ignite this entire region, and sadly our land is burning. We cannot simply wash our hands if we do not take responsibility, each of us before our communities,” Rivlin told Sheikh Mohammed Kaiyuan, the chair of the Council of Muslim Religious Leaders; Sheikh Muwaffak Tarīf, the Druze community’s spiritual leader; Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III; and David Lau, Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
“This meeting is not ceremonial. We are dealing here with human lives; with the blood that has been spilled, and with the blood that, God forbid, may yet be spilled,” Rivlin said. “This is a moment of genuine crisis, and the obligation to avert the outbreak of violence which threatens the innocent, rests upon the shoulders of each and every one of us.”
“This place, our home, is engulfed in the flames of incitement — some of which originates in the words of well-known and senior religious leaders, who purport to speak in the name of religious truth,” Rivlin told the gathered clergy, according to a news release from the president’s office.
Although there has been a recent drop in anti-Israel terror attacks, the Israel Security Agency (known as Shabak or Shin Bet) stated last Sunday that there have been “non-stop efforts to try and destabilize the area.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said that the leader of the illegal northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, has attempted “to fuel the tensions at the Temple Mount compound ahead of Passover.”
“He [Salah] is a one-man dynamite. I ask that the security officials and the justice minister take action to distance him [from the Temple Mount complex],” Netanyahu said.
While Salah earned an 11-month prison sentence in November for inciting violence over the Al-Aqsa mosque in 2007, his incarceration was delayed when he appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court. “He should be in jail already,” Netanyahu said. (i24news)
To foster calm, Israel has promised Jordan and the Palestinian Authority that “Israel is committed to keeping the status quo on the Temple Mount and is interested in keeping the peace during the holidays.” (Haaretz)
Rivlin also told the leaders at his residence that Israel is committed to maintaining the de facto status quo on the Mount, which permits only Muslims to pray at the holy site. That status quo continues despite legal cases that have upheld the Jewish right to worship on the Mount.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has ramped up security measures ahead of the holidays, expressing concern about renewed violence after the relative calm of the first half of April. During the holidays, the army will enforce closures of the border with Judea and Samaria as a standard precautionary measure.
“We’re preparing for significant escalation during the holidays, and we’re increasing the number of troops on the ground to about two more battalions, in addition to the four existing reinforcement battalions,” an IDF senior officer in the Judea and Samaria Division said. (Ynet)
The officer stated that in the last months, the IDF has deployed about 40 percent of its forces in the six primary terror-attack zones in Judea-Samaria (also known as the West Bank).
“The holiday period will be the real test for the current situation, with Israelis going out on trips during their time off. We’re identifying more and more alerts of possible threats ahead of the holidays,” he said.