On the heels of the announcement that Israeli Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad had introduced a bill to exclude Muslims from the al-Aqsa Mosque on certain days, I caught up with him as he was testing the latrines of the new Jewish Museum of Tolerance, being built on top of the historic and ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla in Jerusalem.
BW: How are ya, Aryeh? Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
AE: You’re looking sharp today, Barb. Sorry, I couldn’t resist, either.
BW: I’m glad I found you. I want to ask you about the bill that you’ve submitted in the Knesset to give Jews exclusive access to the al-Aqsa Mosque on certain days of the week. What is the motivation behind that?
AE: We believe in sharing, Barb, so this is a bill to promote sharing of the al-Aqsa Synagogue. Muslims will be allowed to use it on certain days.
BW: What days do you have in mind?
AE: The third Monday of each month. We were hoping to make it a Friday, but as you know, Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday for us, and we need several days to prepare after the Muslims leave.
BW: Why do you need so much preparation time?
AE: We have to burn everything inside and then wash the place down, of course. We can’t have any traces of Muslims when we enter.
BW: How can you call this sharing, Aryeh? This is the holiest Islamic site in Palestine. How is your proposal equitable?
AE: Of course it’s equitable, Barb – separate but equitable. We Israelis take this kind of sharing seriously. We share the land with so-called Palestinians, who live separately in almost 10% of the land where they used to live. Isn’t that sharing? We also share the work: they get to work for us, building the wall and settlements, and in factories that pollute too much and pay too little to be built in Jewish areas. Building a Museum of Tolerance on top of a revered Muslim cemetery is yet another example of sharing. It seems only fair that we should share al-Aqsa Synagogue in equal measure.
BW: You keep saying equal, how equal is the sharing if they are almost half the population and you are taking almost everything?
AE: We recognize this problem, and we’re trying very hard to be an American-style democracy – i.e. to reduce the indigenous population to almost nothing. We’ve already confined most of them to reservations and we’ve prematurely given some of them citizenship even though we still have a long way to go before they are an insignificant proportion of the population.
BW: If you have taken away their homes, land, income, freedom and human rights how do you think they will react when you take away the most sacred place in Palestine for Muslims? Even the Christians are likely to object.
AE: We expect them to object. No matter how much we share their homes, lands and places of worship, they react like terrorists. It’s totally unreasonable, but we nevertheless feel obligated to share.
BW: How do you explain that?
AE: It’s the cultural difference, obviously.