Violence in Israel is getting worse and edging closer to open warfare. Israeli reservists and armor have been called up and Israeli ground forces have joined the assault against Gaza.

Hamas, the terrorist group that is growing increasingly powerful in Gaza, has launched thousands of rockets at Israel. Several of those rockets have fallen short and landed on Palestinian territory, causing more casualties in a situation where already too many on both sides have suffered. Neither side is willing to surrender an inch and hardliners on both sides are controlling the narrative.

Jerusalem may be the most contested city in the world. It is the epicenter of three religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. All three have claims to the area and the question of whose sites are “more holy” has been ongoing for centuries.

What Is the Cause of the Violence and Is There Any Hope for Lasting Peace in the Region?

The answer to those questions is as complicated as the region’s politics. 

About a month ago, Israeli police began to prevent some of the large gatherings at the Al-Aqsa mosque during the beginning of the Holy month of Ramadan. The month is a time when tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have traditionally reached a fever pitch. Then Israeli security forces began to evict several Palestinian families from neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. This acted as the catalyst for the latest violence.  

A Hamas rocket slams into an Israeli highway. (File Photo/Israeli Defence Forces)

Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, and the Claims of Each

The fighting between Israeli police and Palestinians took place around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City. The Al-Aqsa mosque is considered the third-holiest site in Islam and sits on a wide plateau that is also home to the iconic golden Dome of the Rock. Muslims refer to the area as the Noble Sanctuary. They believe that Muhammad was transported from the Great Mosque of Mecca to Al-Aqsa during a single night, which is known as the Night Journey. Muslims frequently claim that Jews and Christians are “storming” the Al-Aqsa mosque. Non-Muslims are not allowed inside any of the buildings there. 

However, among the Jews, the area is known as Temple Mount and is the holiest site in the Jewish religion. This was the site of the ancient biblical temples. The First Temple was constructed by King Solomon around 1000BC During the Jewish revolt against Rome. Roman Legionnaires destroyed the temples in 70AD. Only the Western Wall, derisively called “the Wailing Wall” by the Romans, survived. The exact location of the Temple has always been under dispute, but many believe its location was directly under what is now the Dome of the Rock.  

The Dome of the Rock was initially completed in 692AD at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik on the site of the Second Jewish Temple. The original dome collapsed in 1015 and was rebuilt in 1022-23. The Dome of the Rock is considered one of the oldest examples of Islamic architecture.