Israeli border police officers on Temple Mount

Israeli border police officers walk in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City November 5, 2014. Photo by Reuters

Anyone who wants to track the progress Israel has made on the steep slope toward fanaticism, religiosity and backwardness must examine its relationship to the Temple Mount. Anyone who insists on labeling Israel a modern Western country can’t ignore the extraordinary change that has taken place in recent years. And anyone who still thinks this is a nonreligious society must heed the dark and insane forces that motivate it.

In no country in the West — which Israel pretends to belong to, more and more in vain — does an archeological site turn into an “existential foundation” and excuse for bloodshed. In no country in the West is holiness a matter of policy.

There’s a link between Ehud Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zakenand the Temple Mount: In both cases it’s a tale of darkness. It’s impossible to arrogantly laugh at the woman who held such a powerful position, who needed the advice of  her psychic Ophira, and in the same breath accept the making of the Temple Mount such a key issue.

The two phenomena are equally ludicrous, though the Temple Mount version is more harmful. What until recently was a matter for crazies, the lovers of strange tales, has suddenly become a fateful issue.

Do you remember the red heifer? The coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple have been beloved items for the editors of newspapers’ inside pages when nothing is happening, not to mention our empty-headed talking heads on afternoon television. It’s always possible to bring in some loon with a new interpretation of Jewish law on the matter.

And suddenly, a revolution: The Temple Mount has become an issue. “He who controls the Mount controls the land,” wrote a commentator with unfathomable seriousness this weekend, as if he were living in the Middle Ages.

Of course, you’re allowed to believe in anything — that on this hill the world was created, that Isaac was bound on it, that Mohammed ascended to heaven on it. But what’s the connection between all these events, which happened or did not happen 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, and the political reality of 2014?

Most Israelis have never visited the Temple Mount. They won’t now either; it wasn’t exactly at the top of their agenda.

In central Jerusalem a measure of logic has prevailed: (believing) Jews go to the Western Wall, and (believing) Muslims go to the Dome of the Rock (as far as the occupation lets them), in the name of each of their Gods. What’s wrong with that?

But the Israeli right wing’s uncontrolled lust for real estate, with its seething hatred for Arabs, of course hasn’t ignored this site either. If Shiloh is ours because it was once the “inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim,” the Temple Mount is ours because of the “Foundation Stone.”

A country in which this is the criteria for taking over land is of course a psychotic country. A society that seriously believes in such a thing and is willing to wage a violent battle over it in the 21st century is in a suicidal state.

It’s easy to blame the right-wing politicians who are instigating a war over this crazy hill, but they’re not the main ones to blame. In a society where the number of people kissing mezuzahs constantly rises, where religion and state are bound in a mixture of folklore and hatred of others, right-wing politicians know that their actions will benefit them politically.

Cynical and superficial, their cart is empty. They know that soon, if not already, a majority here will be for destroying the mosques and rebuilding the Temple. Zaken and Ophira surely have been in favor of that for a long time, but they of course are primitive and dark in the eyes of the majority — who are convinced they live in an enlightened and rational country. You know, the one that invented drip irrigation.