JERUSALEM — Aviya Morris is the fresh new face of Jewish extremism, a soft-spoken young mother who wants to see the Muslim walls tumble down and a new Israel rise. This is her dream.
She admits, "It could lead to world war." That would be the fault of Arabs — and the international community, she says. Morris is 20 years old.
Two weeks ago, Morris, her husband and their baby, named Liberty Zion, left their Jewish settlement in Shiloh in the West Bank to visit the raised esplanade in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City that Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary.
The walled compound is sacred to both religions — and the flash point these days for frequent desultory clashes — where Jews believe the world began and Abraham had his hand stayed by an angel of God before he struck a fatal blow against Isaac. Here Jews built their First and Second temples.
It is also the site of Islam’s golden Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque, which marks the ascension of the prophet Muhammad on his night journey to heaven.
And it was here that Morris shouted, “Muhammad is a pig,” a slur against the Muslim prophet.
Morris said she was provoked, that during her visit to the mount she was hounded by veiled Muslim women shouting “Allahu Akbar,” God is great, and “death to the Jews.”
“I felt like it would be an embarrassment not to say anything, a reflection not just on us, but on Israel,” said Morris. “We have a right to be there.”
Morris said the Palestinian women were the aggressors.
“This is the only place in the world where Jews cannot pray. Arabs can wave ISIS and Hamas flags, and we cannot pray or wave Israeli flags, and the world does nothing.”
Morris was briefly detained and questioned by Israeli authorities, who warned her to stay away from the Old City for a week — for her own safety.
Palestinians, and some fellow Israelis, said she should have been charged with incitement. No charges have been filed.
Israelis and Palestinians are reeling from the fast-moving violence of recent days that included Jewish settlers clashing with government forces at a West Bank settlement; a knife attack at the Jerusalem gay pride parade by a Jewish extremist that left a 16-year-old Israeli girl dead; and a lethal arson attack in a Palestinian village where a toddler was burned alive and his father succumbed to wounds a week later.
Israeli politicians, angered and embarrassed by the emergence of Jewish extremists in their midst, have called for the death penalty against Israelis guilty of terror and for the use of harsh new measures, including indefinite detentions without charge or trial, that have been almost exclusively employed in the West Bank by the Israeli military against Palestinians.
Morris said she snapped when she disparaged Muhammad — but she snapped accompanied by an Israeli TV correspondent, who went along with Morris and the group of visiting mothers and babies.
Palestinian female guardians are a new phenomenon at the al-Aqsa compound. They follow Jewish visitors and their Israeli police escorts to stop Jews from praying or singing (Jewish prayer being against Israeli and Jordanian rules, designed to protect the 48-year-old status quo).
The Palestinian wardens say their mission is to protest against the Jewish visitors, for fear the Jews want to return to worship here en masse — and to see a future Third Temple rise from the ruins of their mosque.
In the Palestinian mainstream media, Jews who come to the sanctuary are rarely “visiting,” but “raiding” or “laying siege” to the compound.
The Palestinians had phone cameras to capture Morris’s words, too. Social media was soon swirling with her photograph; some posts called for her death.
Morris has been at the forefront of provocative acts before.
She spat at the Arab Israeli parliamentarian Ahmad Tibi during a debate at Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv in 2012, the Times of Israeli reported, and in 2013 was arrested on suspicion of involvement in vandalizing Jerusalem’s Monastery of the Cross, where assailants left behind the spray-painted message “Jesus — son of a whore” on a wall. She was released without being charged.
Israel’s domestic intelligence agency vows to dismantle what the Hebrew media here describe as a shadowy underground of young zealots who authorities say want to topple the state of Israel by fomenting Arab-Israeli unrest.
Nine young Jewish settlers suspected of extremist activities against Palestinians were arrested Sunday.
The radicals want to see the rise of a new religious kingdom where Israel would be ruled by Torah law and the Third Temple would be rebuilt, according to the Israeli accounts.
Morris is a member of a group of activists calling themselves Students for the Temple Mount, which held a flag-waving protest near an entrance to the complex Sunday.
Members of the various Temple Mount movements, funded by American sponsors, say all they want are equal rights to pray, while others prepare for the day when the Third Temple will be rebuilt and do not advocate for the destruction of the mosque. Instead, they are searching for the perfect red heifer to usher in the new age.
But some activists say they want that day now.
Asked if she imagined a future when Jews and Muslims could share the sacred site, Morris said no. “There’s no good solution,” she said. “You can’t share it. There’s no partition. It wouldn’t work. There is no point in trying.”
She said the Torah contains “exact guidelines” for building the Third Temple. “If it were up to us,” Morris said, “we’d rebuild it now. That’s our solution.”
Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.