Tensions remain high at Temple Mount despite Israel’s removal of metal detectors
Thousands of Palestinians—both Muslim and Christian—demonstrated in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday against the Israeli security cabinet’s plan to install “advanced cameras” at the entrances to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
It comes after Israel removed metal detectors—in response to widespread protests—that were placed at the location in the wake of a July 14 attack, in which three Muslim men from the northern Israeli city of Umm el-Fahm shot dead two Arab-Israeli police officers near al-Aqsa. At the time, Israel was accused of attempting to assert sovereignty over the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif), and of changing the religious “status quo” governing relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians at the holy site.
The new cameras are similar to imaging technologies found at airports, which use automated target recognition software to detect potential threats, including identifying people carrying weapons. The decision to eventually place the cameras—which could cost up to $30 million—was made after hours of discussions conducted over two meetings.
“The security cabinet accepted the recommendation of all of the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies (“smart checks”) and other measures instead of metal detectors in order to ensure the security of visitors and worshippers in the Old City and on the Temple Mount,” read a statement released by the body.
Hanadi Halawani, a Palestinian protester, explained to The Media Line that people will continue to protest around al-Aqsa until Israel agrees to restore the conditions that existed before the July 14 attack. “They are trying to control the mosque and the people who are entering,” he asserted. “This is bigger than the metal detectors or the new cameras. We enter al-Aqsa to pray, there is no need for such a security check.”
Halawani considers al-Aqsa as a second home, and she is willing to make sacrifices in order to protect it. “If you see someone destroying your house, would you be quiet? So what if it’s al-Aqsa, the house of all Muslims?” Another protester, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Media Line that “adding cameras around the location amounts to trying to control people in Jerusalem even more.”
Jamel, a Palestinian who asked that his last name be omitted, reinforced this notion, claiming to The Media Line that “Israel is aiming to collect information for intelligence purposes, but we refuse that al-Aqsa to be used for that.
“Yesterday we had a meeting with the Palestinian national forces,” he continued, “and we agreed that we would not back down from our position no matter what.”
A spokesperson for the Israel National Police, Micky Rosenfeld, refused to comment on the plan to install the cameras, but told to The Media Line that security forces are taking all measures in Jerusalem to prevent future attacks. He also confirmed that Israeli police are implementing governmental decisions.
A well-informed journalist, Mohammed Albudari, revealed to The Media Line that the head of al-Aqsa, Omar Kiswani, was surprised when he first saw the metal detectors. In response, there were widespread calls to boycott the site and to instead pray nearby. “The people of Jerusalem have been united from day one, and they refused to enter the gates when they first saw [the detectors]. The Muslim scholars and Kiswani supported the decision,” Albudari stated.
“Al-Aqsa is not only a place of worship,” he asserted, “it’s a place where we get married and pray for our dead. Installing the ‘advanced cameras’ will also destroy the beauty of our archaeological and historical sites.”
The public has responded in kind, uniting in protest for more than 10 days. In fact, it appears the demonstrations have taken on a life of their own. “What is happening now is very promising and beautiful,” one demonstrator stated. “Women are cooking to feed the protesters, owners of supermarkets are providing free water and refreshments and random people are bringing fruits and homemade sweets.”
Another protester spoke of “a strange team spirit” that has emerged. “People care about each other,” he told The Media Line. “If Israel only knew it would cause this marvelous result by installing the metal detectors, the government would not have started the whole thing.”