By Arlene Kushner
Last night there was a conference, “Israel Returns to the Temple Mount,” at the Menachem Begin Center in Jerusalem – this is an annual event of the Temple Mount Faithful. It was neither a large nor a raucous event.
Rabbi Yehuda Glick, Temple Mount activist, was a key presenter: He showed a video filmed on the Mount that morning that offered evidence of Palestinian Arabs trying to frighten Jewish visitors away. Deeply devoted to Har Habayit, he gives tours on the Mount and educates on the ancient and on-going Jewish connection to it. One would not always get that impression from the media, but he is a gentle man, and from what I know of him, a very special human being.
When Rabbi Glick left the Center, he was approached by an Arab dressed in black garb. The Arab asked him – in Arabic-accented Hebrew – if he was Yehuda Glick; on receiving an affirmative answer, he pulled out a gun, shot him three times point blank in the chest, and rode away on a motor cycle.
Rabbi Glick was still conscious when taken to Sha’arei Tzedek hospital. His condition was designated as critical, unstable and he was rushed into surgery. This morning he is serious, but stable. Yet doctors say his situation is still precarious. My understanding is that he has been placed in an induced coma, to allow his body to rest and heal. Please God, let him live.
Please pray for him: Yehuda Yehoshua ben Ita Breina.
A suspect, Mu’taz Hijazi of the neighborhood of Abu Tor, was identified rather quickly. This is a Palestinian Arab who had been sentenced to Israeli prison for terror activity during the second intifada; he was on a security watch because of suspicions that he has been involved in other terrorist activity since his 2012 release. When he got out of prison, he had declared in an interview:
“I am happy to return to Jerusalem. I wish to be a thorn in the throat of the Zionist plan to Judaize Jerusalem.” (Emphasis added)
What I had assumed when I first learned that he was identified was that information about him was out on the Jerusalem streets in Arab areas and was picked up very promptly by Israeli intelligence. That might be, but I’ve since learned something else that is fairly incredible:
Mu’taz Hijazi worked for the Terasa restaurant that is located inside of the Begin Center. He actually had on his work uniform when he accosted the rabbi. Apparently he had spoken to fellow workers about his irritation with Yehuda Glick, and it is apparent that he had specifically sought him out.
I must assume that he misrepresented his background when applying for the job, but he clearly was not given a sufficient background check. (If indeed he was given a background check at all.) This should not have happened, plain and simple. It is all the more astonishing because the Begin Center regularly hosts conferences and seminars, which largely represent a nationalist position.
There are some very huge lessons to be learned here.
A special anti-terrorism unit went to Hijazi’s home in the Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem, to arrest him. When he resisted arrest and instead shot at the officers from inside the house, they returned fire and killed him.
Hijazi apparently had Islamic Jihad connections, as this morning, Islamic Jihad took credit for the attack.
“The assassination attempt on Glick is an act of Palestinian vengeance, in response to what is happening in Jerusalem,” declared a spokesman.
As I write, the Temple Mount is closed. To everyone. Until further notice. This is the way Israeli security is handling what is clearly a highly volatile situation. The city is on high alert, with an additional bolstering of security forces ordered by the prime minister.
Netanyahu continues to say that the status quo on the Mount will be sustained. I will want to come back to this for further examination of the issues.
Mahmoud Abbas’s response to the closure (which, you will observe, applied equally to all), was the usual hostile and inciteful blather. It was delivered by his spokesman Abu Redeina:
“This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation.
“We hold the Israel government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque [Temple Mount] this morning.
“This decision is a dangerous act and a blatant challenge that will lead to more tension and instability and will create a negative and dangerous atmosphere.
“The state of Palestine will take all legal measures to hold Israel accountable and to stop these ongoing attacks.”
In his statement today, Netanyahu singled out the international community for criticism, and very properly so:
.”A few days ago, I said that we were facing a wave of incitement by radical Islamic elements and by [Mahmoud Abbas] who said that Jews must be prevented from going up to the Temple Mount by any means possible.
“I still have not heard from the international community so much as one word of condemnation for these inflammatory remarks. The international community needs to stop its hypocrisy and take action against inciters…”
Let me return briefly here to the insults leveled at Bibi Netanyahu by one or more unnamed high level US officials who were cited in an article by Jeffrey Goldberg.
The response of the US government, in my opinion, has been sorely inadequate. There was backpedaling but no apology. No notice that the official who spoke about our prime minister in grossly insulting terms would be relieved of his responsibilities. And certainly no denial of what was reportedly said. It was, rather, more of a “gee, we didn’t give him permission to say this and he wasn’t speaking for us.” The terms that had been used are being referred to as “inappropriate” and “counterproductive.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “If this issue comes up we will make sure it is clear it’s not reflective of the secretary’s views.”
And precisely what does that mean: “if this issue comes up”? It was in print and widely quoted.
Kerry reportedly is going to “explain” the administration viewpoint to Netanyahu.