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World

Palestinians Protest Metal Detectors At Holy Site

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Tensions are very high right now at one of the world's holy sites.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

GREENE: That is the sound of Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem outside a site that is known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. These protests follow a deadly shooting that killed two Israeli policemen at the site. NPR's Daniel Estrin has more from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: On Friday, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel shot and killed two Israeli policemen at the most sensitive religious site in Jerusalem. Now Israeli police have installed metal detectors at the gates where Muslim worshipers enter. Muslim authorities have called on Palestinians not to enter the holy site in protest. NPR's Palestinian producer Nuha Musleh visited this morning.

NUHA MUSLEH, BYLINE: I'm walking on the grounds of the holy sanctuary. I don't see any Muslim worshippers.

ESTRIN: Outside the site, I met a Muslim man praying on a piece of cardboard on the ground. He said he refused to pass through the metal detectors because he said they made him feel like a suspect. Israeli police say metal detectors are necessary after the deadly shooting. But Palestinians say this isn't about security. It's about Israeli encroachment on a religious site administered by Muslims. It's the third-holiest site in Islam. Muslim tradition says the Prophet Muhammad made his assent to heaven from here. But it's also the holiest spot in Judaism, where ancient Jewish temples stood. There is a growing movement of nationalist Jews who want prayer rights here.

ABRAHAM ELBIN: (Speaking Hebrew).

ESTRIN: Abraham Elbin (ph) is a devout Jew who visited the site today. He said it was God's doing that made Muslims boycott the site. He said one day he wants to see a Jewish temple built here. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to calm tensions, saying there will be no changes to the status quo at the site. But violence has erupted in the past over this very issue.

It all comes down to interpretations. Whose holy site is this? Historians say that when the Muslim shrine the Dome of the Rock was built at this site in the seventh century, it was a way for Muslims to acknowledge that their faith was rooted in the older Jewish tradition of the holiness of the spot. Today, though, this shared tradition has become a source of division and, for many, a zero-sum game. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNDERS SONG, "SYRIA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.