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Why the metal detectors at Al-Aqsa are such a big deal

Palestinians aren’t against security measures at the Al-Aqsa compound — they are against changing the delicate status quo at one of Islam’s holiest sites.

By Noa Levy

A Palestinian child rides his bike outside the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Israeli authorities erected metal detectors at the entrances to the compound in the wake of a deadly attack against Israeli security forces by three Palestinian citizens of Israel the week before. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child rides his bike outside the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Israeli authorities erected metal detectors at the entrances to the compound in the wake of a deadly attack against Israeli security forces by three Palestinian citizens of Israel the week before. (Activestills.org)

Why are the Palestinians up in arms over metal detectors at the entrance to Al-Aqsa? Let me assume for a moment that most of you, like me, don’t get what the big deal is. After all, there are metal detectors at the entrance to every mall, train station, and even the Western Wall and the holy sites in Mecca. Islam forbids bringing in weapons to the holy Al-Aqsa compound, and the metal detectors are there for the protection of the worshippers. So what gives?

The issue is the framing. Framing this story as one in which Palestinians have a problem with metal detectors does an injustice to the demands of the worshipers at Al-Aqsa. Since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 Israel has respected the status quo vis-a-vis the city’s Muslim holy sites: the Aqsa compound is managed by the Islamic Waqf, the body that controls the compound according an agreement between Israel and Jordan. Israel knows that this arrangement is what prevents conflagration with the Muslim world. When the status quo was first violated by Ariel Sharon in 2000, it lead to the Second Intifada.

There are security checks, managed by the Waqf, at the entrance to Al-Aqsa that no one has ever opposed. If the Israelis want metal detectors, why not let the Waqf be put in charge of them?

But this was never the issue at hand. Worshippers are upset about an Israeli checkpoint being manned by Israeli Border Police officers — a checkpoint similar to the ones in the West Bank, which Palestinians associate with long lines, humiliation, and abuse by soldiers and police officers. This is a checkpoint that was erected at the entrance to one of the holiest sites in Islam, where Palestinian worshipers enter five times a day to pray. The compound also includes mosques, a school, homes, and several other buildings.

The protests, then, are against the Israeli checkpoint at the entrance to Al-Aqsa, as a violation of the states quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, as well as increased Israel control over those who enter it. It’s not only about the metal detectors themselves. No one had a problem when the security checks were handled by the Waqf.

It is the government, not the police, that is responsible for this decision — which goes against recommendations by both the Shin Bet and the IDF. This is a political decision, whose goal is to provoke, rather than to protect.

Noa Levy is the secretary of Hadash Tel Aviv. This this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      Yes, metal detectors at the entrances to their Mosque means they won’t be able to shoot to kill Israeli policemen any more. That is why they are against it.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “It is the government, not the police, that is responsible for this decision — which goes against recommendations by both the Shin Bet and the IDF.”

      Indeed. And in that context, it’s all about Netanyahu and the extremist right wing government he has engineered and is responsible for, and his placing himself and his grip on power above all other considerations, above the well being of Palestinians or Israelis:

      Temple Mount Crisis: Fears of Political Rivals Led Netanyahu to Make a Grave Error
      Netanyahu knows what is needed to deal with current tensions, but he voted for the opposite; with no token leftists to blame, he’s stuck between a rock and hard place
      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802872

      Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        The main problem is that Jews cannot pray on their holiest place. It is inequitable and scandalous. It is a shocking double standard.

        Reply to Comment
        • It is our holiest site historically but outside national religious circles you won’t find a rabbi who allows you to go to the mount.its about ritual impurity and the national religious don’t have a answer to that halacha their national need just overrides the halachic one.

          Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            That is incorrect. The National Religious movement has plenty of scholars who have done much research into the matter and they have determined that there are significant areas of the Temple Mount that can be entered without halachic problems, provided that the proper preparations are made. The sweeping prohibition that has been made by Rabbinic scholars in the past is not halachic, but rather from concern that people not properly prepared, and not aware of the areas that may not be entered might do so. Those who do support a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount feel they have made the sweeping prohibition unnecessary.

            Reply to Comment
    3. KJ from France

      The tone of the article was disingenuous at best and to speak of hurt feelings when men have died is offensive. Further, labelling government to be at fault is neither helpful nor accurate. The position of Shin Bet and the IDF is advisory – in this case, their advice was overruled in the interests of greater public safety which the government had every right to do.

      Reply to Comment
    4. maayan

      keep on lieing to the world. the conflict is not about the status. it is about control. its bin going on before 67. the muslams do not accept our basic right to live here in Israel.
      the thing that are going on now are apart of the muslim brothers and radical islamit plan to shere blod and create a new war. so stop the f… lies

      Reply to Comment

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