In the current controversy, Israel maintains it installed the metal detectors as a safety measure after three Arab Israeli gunmen smuggled homemade machine guns into the al-Aqsa Mosque July 14, shooting and killing two Israeli policemen.
Palestinians claim the metal detectors were a way for Israel to enact more control over access to the site, which is governed by a status quo arrangement which Israel has said it will maintain.
East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since its victory in 1967's Six-Day War.
Israelis seem to live in perpetual fear and Palestinians in unrelenting anger, Fr. Neuhaus said. “Unfortunately, those who speak the language of reason and understanding are unable to garner the support of the masses, who buy into the simplistic slogans of the dominant political elites.”
The political authority in Israel “repeats that it is not changing the status quo and insists on this particularly in front of the international community,” Fr. Neuhaus said.
But at the same time, there are radicals in Israel “who explicitly endorse a change in the status quo” and have been supported in instances by government ministries.
“The central problem is not restricting access to Al-Aqsa but rather the fear that the Israelis seek to replace Al-Aqsa with a Jewish Temple.”
“Any change to the status quo, however minor, is perceived as preparation for a hidden master plan that Palestinians (and the entire Muslim world) formulate as their worst nightmare. The Israelis are fully aware that this is the case as every threat to the status quo has erupted in similar violence in the past.”
Though the status quo for Christians and their holy places (like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is less threatened, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis only serves to worsen the political divide already present among Christians – split between those who are Arabs and thus form one with their Muslim brothers and sisters, and those integrated with the Jewish side.
“Nonetheless, Jewish extremists have manifested their refusal to coexist with Christians in the Holy Land through attacks on churches and other Christian holy sites,” Fr. Neuhaus explained.
Because Christians only make up 2-3 percent of the overall population, they are particularly vulnerable under the ongoing instability and violence, he continued, but “Christians are determined to struggle for full integration in their society, whether Palestinian or Israeli, demanding equal rights and mutual respect.”
(Story continues below)
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“In times of conflict, the Christians are even more insistent in their prayers for peace.”
Miguel Perez Pichel contributed to this report.