Alas, the cultural divide: Statesmanship in one society can be sacrilege in another. Consider that enduring symbol of peace in Western Civilization, the olive branch. Extending one in a bid to ease tension is regarded as a good thing — and can draw applause for any member of Congress.
But tell that to the Israeli cops who briefly detained Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and another congressman who were visiting Jerusalem last week.
As reported by our sister publication the Washington Examiner, Tipton and fellow Republican U.S. Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia happened to be touring Jerusalem’s historic and venerated Temple Mount — a holy site for Muslims and Jews — when one of them absent-mindedly picked up a stray olive branch as the two strolled along.
That turned out to be a bad move — potentially the stuff of which international incidents are made. The two were stopped and questioned for a few minutes by police, the Examiner explains, “…after the Waqf, the Jordanian organization that governs the Temple Mount, had brought to their attention that the congressmen took a branch from an olive tree…”
The Waqf strictly prohibits visitors from taking anything from the grounds.
The Temple Mount, which is revered as a sacred holy spot for both Jews and Muslims, is currently under Jordan’s religious custodianship since an agreement was drawn up after the 1967 war. According to the agreement, Jews are allowed to visit the spot but not allowed to participate in worship or prayer.
Tipton spokeswoman Kelsey Mix later released a statement:
‘They picked up an olive branch, the symbol of peace, on the Temple Mount that was on the ground. … They did not remove it from the Temple Mount, it was eventually dropped along the way. No harm was intended and they were not aware that picking up leaves or branches is prohibited. They were briefly questioned and the situation was quickly resolved.’
The Examiner says the lawmakers were visiting Israel to discuss U.S.-Israeli relations and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.