Our weekly column from the humor site PreOccupied Territory.
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The Waqf, or religious council that administers the site, announced the new policy amid Palestinian violence against Jews in the city, attacks that the Palestinian leadership and media have blamed on Israel's "assault" on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel has allowed Jews and other non-Muslims to enter the area that once held both ancient Jewish Temples and is considered Judaism's holiest spot, angering Muslims with such a "desecration" of Islam's third-holiest location. Israeli and other regional leaders have been working to calm tensions, and the Waqf's pronouncement sounded a conciliatory note in an otherwise polarized environment.
Jewish activists have been demanding greater access to the Temple Mount, and a leader of those activists was seriously wounded by a Palestinian gunman several weeks ago. Other attacks over the last several months have involved Palestinian drivers deliberately ramming their cars into Israeli pedestrians, or stabbing them. Four were killed as recently as this morning when a pair of Palestinian attackers stormed a synagogue and used a meat cleaver, guns, and an axe to kill and maim as many Jews as possible. Palestinian media incite Muslims to "defend" Al-Aqsa "by whatever means necessary," incitement that finds a willing audience among Palestinians predisposed to blame Israel for their ills.
Waqf officials boasted that the new policy proves the they are being flexible while Israel is showing intransigence. "We are a religion of peace," said Imam Mithu Sallah. "As an indication of our willingness to accommodate others, we are allowing any non-Muslim born before the Hijra year 1286 to enter the Haram-al-Sharif and even pray," he continued, referring to the lunar Islamic calendar and calling the Temple Mount by its Arabic name. He contrasted the Waqf's tolerance with Israel, which stubbornly insists on maintaining religious, historical, and cultural ties to the site despite Muslim objections.
"This policy is even more flexible than it seems," added Sallah's colleague Labna Raami. "It uses the Islamic calendar, according to which 150 years is less time than in the Gregorian calendar." He explained that today's date in the Muslim year 1286 corresponds to May 7, 1869, almost five years less than a full 150 according to the western reckoning. The Gregorian year is slightly more than 365 days; the Islamic, 354. "So you see, we are even willing to accept people as young as 146 and a half," he boasted.