Aviya Morris is the fresh new face of Jewish extremism. A soft-spoken young mother who wants to see the Muslim walls tumble down and a new Israel rise.
This is her dream. She admits that it could “lead to world war”. That would be the fault of Arabs and the international community, she says. Ms Morris is 20.
Two weeks ago, together with her husband and their baby, Liberty Zion, she left their Jewish settlement in Shiloh in the West Bank to visit the raised esplanade in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City that Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary.
The walled compound is sacred to both religions. Jews believe it is where the world began and Abraham had his hand stayed by an angel of God before he struck a fatal blow against Isaac. Here, Jews built their First and Second temples.
It is also the site of Islam’s golden Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque, which marks the ascension of the Prophet Mohamed on his night journey to heaven. And it was here that Ms Morris shouted: “Mohamed is a pig.”
She claims that she was provoked, that during her visit she was hounded by veiled Muslim women shouting “Allahu Akbar,” God is great, and “death to the Jews”.
She said: “I felt like it would be an embarrassment not to say anything, a reflection not just on us, but on Israel. We have a right to be there.”
She added: “This is the only place in the world where Jews cannot pray. Arabs can wave Isis and Hamas flags, we cannot pray or wave Israeli flags, and the world does nothing.”
Ms Morris was briefly detained and questioned by Israeli authorities, who warned her to stay away from the Old City for a week – for her own safety. Palestinians, and some fellow Israelis, said she should have been charged with incitement. But no charges have been filed.
Israelis and Palestinians are reeling from the fast-moving violence of recent days that included Jewish settlers clashing with government forces at a West Bank settlement; a knife attack at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade by a Jewish extremist that left a 16-year-old Israeli girl dead; and a lethal arson attack in a Palestinian village where a toddler was burned alive and his father succumbed to wounds a week later. Benzi Gopstein, the Jewish extremist leader who has condoned burning churches, has been detained for questioning by Israeli police.
Israeli politicians, angered and embarrassed by the emergence of Jewish extremists in their midst, have called for the death penalty against Israelis guilty of terror and for the use of harsh new measures – including indefinite detention without charge or trial – that have been almost exclusively employed in the West Bank by the Israeli military against Palestinians.
Palestinian female guardians are a new phenomenon at the al-Aqsa compound. They follow Jewish visitors and their Israeli police escorts to stop Jews from praying or singing (Jewish prayer being against Israeli and Jordanian rules, designed to protect the 48-year-old status quo).
The Palestinian wardens say their mission is to protest against the Jewish visitors, for fear the Jews want to return to worship here en masse – and to see a future Third Temple rise from the ruins of their mosque. In the Palestinian mainstream media, Jews who come to the sanctuary are rarely “visiting”, but “raiding” or “laying siege” to the compound.
The Palestinians had phone cameras to capture Ms Morris’s words, too. She has been at the forefront of provocative acts before.
Ms Morris spat at the Arab Israeli parliamentarian Ahmad Tibi during a debate at Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv in 2012, the Times of Israeli reported, and in 2013 was arrested on suspicion of involvement in vandalising Jerusalem’s Monastery of the Cross, where assailants left behind the spray-painted message “Jesus – son of a whore” on a wall. She was released without being charged.
Asked if she imagined a future when Jews and Muslims could share the sacred site, she was unflinching. “There’s no good solution,” she said. “You can’t share it. There’s no partition. It wouldn’t work. There is no point in trying.”
© The Washington Post
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