Muslim men allegedly harassed and stalked a group of United States congressmen visiting a holy site in Israel Tuesday. A group from the Israel Allies Foundation's congressional caucus, an organization devoted to political support for Israel based on Judeo-Christian values, claimed that several Muslim men shouted and followed them during their visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Penn., Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and his wife, Elizabeth Jenkins, were traveling to the Middle East to discuss U.S. policy in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They were slated to meet with Netanyahu after a trip to the compound -- known to Muslims as "Noble Sanctuary" and to Jews as "Temple Mount" -- in Jerusalem's Old City.
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) August 11, 2015
The delegation claimed that the harassment began as Elizabeth Jenkins, who was wearing a calf-length skirt and a long-sleeved shirt, was yelled at to cover up more as she ascended the Mount. One man later came up to the group and insisted that the holy area should only be termed "Dome of the Rock" instead of "Temple Mount."
“There was an effort to completely suppress not only any expression of religious conviction, but any articulation of historical reality,” Franks, co-chairman of the Israel Allies Foundation’s congressional caucus told the Jerusalem Post, saying the harassment “shows the fundamental dynamics of the greater contention throughout the Middle East.”
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While the area is one of the holiest locations for Jews, Christians and Muslims, it has been operated as a Waqf, a charitable religious space, by the Muslim community in Jerusalem since the Crusades. The congressmen said a group of roughly 15-20 men followed them throughout their visit and that, at points, police had to force the crowd to allow the congressmen to continue.
“It was a place of great religious meaning to me as a Christian, a destination…that me and my wife were looking forward to, and then to have the confrontation from the Muslims who yelled and shouted at us and my wife individually…To literally step on the Temple Mount and be confronted was certainly shocking,” Jenkins told the Jerusalem Post.
Franks, who helped lead the trip, has previously been cited for Islamophobic remarks and described Islam as "the enemy of freedom" in 2013 at a conference in Palm Beach, Florida.