A young Toronto woman who held a pro-Zionist flag at an Islamic holy site in Jerusalem says she is receiving death threats, but has no regrets.
Lauren Isaacs, 23, the recently-appointed Toronto director of Herut Canada, caused websites and social media to light up when she held the blue-and-white flag of her organization while standing before the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, on the top of the Temple Mount.
“Damn right” was the caption Isaacs posted to Facebook, along with the photo of herself with the flag.
In a telephone interview from Israel, Isaacs said those furious over her action “are threatening to shoot me, to stab me, to hunt me down.”
Amid strong support for her action, other threats she has received via her personal Facebook page and in online comments have been, “They know where I live and they’re coming for me. They will destroy me. I’ll be going to hell and they’ll make sure I get there quickly. I better watch my back because the next bullet is for me,” Isaacs said.
It has been “typical stuff,” she added with a laugh.
Media in Israel picked up the story that began when a smiling Isaacs unfurled the Herut Canada flag, which is similar to Israel’s, during a visit to the Temple Mount with her mother on June 11.
The reports said the pro-Hamas Al-Quds channel slammed the image of Isaacs with the banner as “a mark of disgrace on the forehead of 1.6 billion Muslims.”
As for less-heated accusations that her actions were provocative or disrespectful, Isaacs said, “I think that’s ridiculous. I was not provoking anyone. And I did not intend to incite anything. Holding a flag doesn’t incite anything. It’s prideful. It’s peaceful, celebratory, it’s happy. Everyone should hold their flags with pride.”
She said she has “absolutely no regrets. I stand by what I did 100 per cent. I’m a Jewish Zionist and I’m proud. It’s a holy Jewish site.”
While her mother took the photo, “No one bothered me. No one questioned me. No one saw me,” she said.
Isaacs did not report the threats to Israeli authorities and said she has not decided whether to go to Toronto police upon her return.
“Right now, I’m monitoring the situation. This is my first experience with violent threats and so much hate mail,” said Isaacs.
She said she was in Israel for a month “to do some Jewish studying and a little bit of work for Herut Canada.”
After a lengthy dormancy, the organization was reconstituted last spring as a grassroots educational charity “that cares about unapologetic Zionism,” Isaacs said.
The Herut (Freedom) party was created by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1948. It merged with Likud in 1988.
“Everyone should have more pride and not be afraid to show pride for their country, for their people, for their nation and for their religion.… Just waving a flag is a phenomenal celebration of happiness and pride. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and more people need to acknowledge that the Temple Mount is a place that’s OK for Jews to celebrate.”
According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the Temple Mount was where the two Jewish Temples were located and is the holiest site in Judaism. “Called Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims, the site contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam, the iconic Dome of the Rock (which is not a mosque) and many other small structures.”
The Islamic Waqf, or trust, manages the Temple Mount, and Israeli police coordinate daily activities with Waqf authorities.
The Temple Mount has been the source of friction between Jews and Muslims for decades. On June 2, Arabs rioted on the site when Jews were allowed to enter the area to celebrate Jerusalem Day, which this year fell during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.