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Christians urged to 'pray peace, salam, and shalom' for Israel

by Tola Mbakwe

There has been much more tension in Israel than normal after security measures at the holy site Haram al-Sharif, which is also known as the Temple Mount, were ramped due to the shooting of two Israeli police officers weeks ago.

Israeli authorities put up an overhead metal bridge and railings to stop worship at the site. It said the security measures were necessary to prevent more attacks and are standard procedure to ensure safety at sites around the world.

Palestinians claimed Israel was trying to expand its control over the site and refrained from entering the complex.

The issue sparked some of the worst street clashes in years and threatened to draw Israel into conflict with other Arab and Muslim nations. Muslim officials had called for a boycott of prayers at the compound.

However, the controversy stopped on Thursday morning when the added security infrastructure was removed.

Palestinians danced, chanted "God is Great" and set off fireworks after some security devices were removed early on Thursday morning.

Earlier in the day, Muslim leaders told worshippers to return to the site, considered holy to Jews and Muslims alike.

Dr Harry Hagopian, an international lawyer and church consultant on the Middle East, told Premier the initial reaction to the shooting was a big miscalculation on behalf of the Israeli prime minister.

He said: "Metal detectors and facial recognition cameras shouldn't have been brought in because it was clear to Israeli intelligence services more than anybody else that this wold exacerbate Palestinian and Muslim feelings."

He told Premier he hopes the removal of the security is a true and honest move by the Israeli government to promote unity.
He said: "I'm hoping with the removal of the metal detectors, with the removal of those cameras, we wouldn't suddenly get a report from the Israeli press or the Arab-Palestinian press that there's some other clever rules in order to control the Muslim people praying on the compound.

"If that doesn't happen my hope is that both the Palestinian leadership and the popular movement would actually encourage the calming down of feelings so it would go back to what it was like a week ago that. It's in nobody's interest, not Muslims, not Jews and not Arab Christians who are in solidarity with the Muslims.

"Once we do that hopefully this will go back to being the usual, which is not normal, but better than what we've been seeing the past few days."

The continued stand-off highlighted the deep distrust between Israel and the Palestinians when it comes to the holy site.

Jews revere the hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City as the Temple Mount, site of the two Jewish biblical temples. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a remnant of one of the temples and is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

Muslims believe the site marks the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is Islam's third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Hagopian told Premier how Christians can pray for peace of Jerusalem.

He said: "Praying for the peace of Jerusalem means inclusiveness, means accepting this is place for three faiths and that they should coexist, they should live together and it is impossible for one to replace the other.

"I would call it salam in Arabic and I would call it shalom in Hebrew and that is what we should all pray for them."

Listen to Dr Harry Hagopian speaking to Premier's Marcus Jones:

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