The Orthodox Jewish men were facing east, to honor the Old City site where the ancient temples once stood, when two Palestinians armed with a gun, knives and axes burst into their synagogue Tuesday morning, shouting “God is great!” in Arabic. Within moments, three rabbis and a fourth pious man lay dead, blood pooling on their prayer shawls and holy books.

The assailants, cousins from East Jerusalem, were killed at the scene in a gun battle with the police that wounded two officers; one died of his injuries Tuesday night. Politicians and others around the world condemned the attack and the rising religious dimension of the spate of violence, which has been attributed mainly to a struggle over the very site the victims were praying toward. […]