Toronto Star Columnist Rick Salutin Demeans Judaism’s Holiest Site As Merely A Place Where “Some Religious Jews Want To Restore Animal Sacrifice”

April 17, 2023

In early April, midway through the holiday of Ramadan, and just before the onset of the Passover and Easter holidays, Palestinian riots began in Jerusalem’s Old City. There, as many as 400 Palestinians holed themselves up in the Al Aqsa Mosque, built atop the ancient Temple Mount, where they stockpiled weapons for a showdown with Israeli police.

When Israeli police attempted to make arrests, they were met with an outburst of Palestinian violence. Before long, spurred on by anti-Israel incitement falsely accusing the Jewish State of desecrating the Al Aqsa Mosque, Palestinian terrorism had claimed the lives of four innocent civilians in Israel – an Italian tourist, as well as an Israeli mother and her two daughters, aged 15 and 20, who were gunned down by a Palestinian terrorist as they drove on a highway.

While the violence has since quieted, the riots and ensuing terrorism served as a reminder that when anti-Israel incitement is spread, accusing Israel of false crimes against the Palestinians, it often results in the deaths of innocent Israeli civilians.

It is in that vein that Rick Salutin’s recent April 14 column in the Toronto Star entitled: “Is a potential civil war brewing among Israeli Jews?,” is so irresponsible.

Salutin, a Contributing Columnist for the Toronto Star, grossly understated the Jewish People’s history to their ancient sites when he referred to the Temple Mount as being a place where “some religious Jews want to restore animal sacrifice and from which Muslims traditionally believe Muhammad ascended to heaven.”

In fact, the Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world for Jews because it was where both ancient Jewish Temples were built – the first destroyed by the Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, and the second destroyed by the Roman Empire in 68/70 CE. These are not beliefs; they are empirical facts supported by copious amounts of historical evidence.

Hundreds of years after the Second Temple was destroyed, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock structure were built on the same site.

To therefore describe it as an element of fringe Jewish belief is both ignorant and offensive.

But Salutin did not end his frivolous retelling of Jewish history and practice there. He later described Zionism as a “result of being hit in the face too much.” And while it is undoubtedly true that antisemitism played a central role in the modern Zionist movement, this too totally erases the ancient connection that the Jewish People as a collective have had with their ancient land since the last Roman exile nearly two millennia prior.

Since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in the first century CE, the Jews have yearned to return to their ancestral land, and soon Jews began praying for the return to Jerusalem three times, every single day.

This connection to Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, did not arise out of thin air. The Hebrew Bible mentions Jerusalem literally hundreds of times, and the Land of Israel is where the ancient Jewish kings and prophets walked and taught.

Once again, to refer to Zionism, the modern movement of the Jewish People’s self-determination in their ancient homeland, as little more than a knee-jerk response to antisemitism, once again serves to completely erase thousands of years of history.

One’s religious views on the matter are irrelevant; the Jewish People’s historic connections to Jerusalem, as the capital of their ancestral homeland, are unassailable.

Undeterred, Salutin continued his broadside against Jewish history by labeling Jews who have settled in their people’s ancient lands as “colonizers in the West Bank,” using a modern term for the ancient land of Judea & Samaria, from whence the term “Jew” originated. The term “West Bank”, in contrast, is modern, originating in the mid 20th century, and merely refers to the territory being on the western bank of the Jordan River, which was never part of any Palestinian state.

Unlike colonizers in the past, who invaded foreign lands and subjugated locals, these alleged Jewish “colonizers” live in a land where their ancestors lived, stretching back to historic times but never severed, follow the faith of their ancestors, and who have reconstituted an ancient nation-state. These are in no way representative of what colonization means.

Salutin continued his volley by arguing that Jewish “religious fanatics who believe in one indisputable, literal interpretation of Scripture- which tells them that God gave this land to them and their descendants and nobody else,” cannot be reasoned with.

But nowhere in Israel’s modern history, past or present, has shown that the country is governed by any kind of religious fanaticism. Unlike many of Israel’s theocratic neighbours, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, Israel is simultaneously a Jewish State, and a democratic one, which protects the rights of all its peoples, both non-Jews and Jews of varied religious observance.

It is unclear what prompted Salutin to craft such an unfounded attack on Jewish history, but as recent Palestinian violence in Jerusalem has shown, anti-Israel propaganda based on rewriting history can often have dangerous consequences, and Salutin should be far more responsible before penning overt disinformation in future.

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