Op-Ed: A Deja Vu in the Temple Mount?
Books that were written in Hebrew, discussed Judaism, or mentioned Israel were banned from the Soviet Union. Zionism was branded “pornography” in the state-run media, and devout Jews were called “parasites” by the Stalinists, just like drug addicts.
Something similar is happening on the Temple Mount.
The Islamic Waqf has removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence at the most Jewish holy site. At the entrance, a Waqf sign says “The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property”.
Today Jews are barred from praying on the Mount and are not even allowed to carry any holy articles with them. With Islamic observers supervising visits, Israeli police have frequently arrested Jews for various violations, such as singing or reciting a prayer even in a whisper.
Jewish women have been recently arrested following claims by police and Waqf officials that they noticed they were praying on Temple Mount.
Why is it a crime for a Jew to mention God’s name on Temple Mount? And why is the State of Israel complicit in enforcing this anti-Jewish rule?
Freedom of worship for all religions, including free access to the holy places of all faiths, has always been a cardinal principle of the Jewish state. And by and large, Israel has honored this principle, even under extremely difficult circumstances.
It is ironic that Judaism’s holiest site should be the only place in Israel where this principle is violated. Nothing can justify the infringement of religious rights in the Temple Mount and that infringement undermines respect for the rule of law in Israel by making a mockery of the law that guarantees freedom for all faiths.
Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel in the sense that Washington DC is the capital of the US.
Jerusalem is the city of the presence of God.
The Temple Mount is the reason for Jewish existence. It’s Israel’s testimony and license to the land.
The Arabs know that very well.
Many devout Jews won’t set foot on the Temple Mount until it is “redeemed”. They are afraid that they may be stepping on the ground covering the ruins of the Holy of Holies, allowed only to the High Priest on Yom Kippur, and that is enough to keep them away. But there are those who believe they have a right to pray in the grounds where the Temple stood, particularly on Tisha be’Av, the anniversary of its destruction.
Though many respected rabbis forbid praying on the Mount, others permit it. And there is a growing and brave movement, led by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel and Professor Hillel Weiss, which sensibilize the Israeli public on the Temple Mount.
After all, disagreements among rabbinical authorities have always been Judaism’s trademark. It is a religion that encourages questions and intellectual dialectics. That is not the Israeli authorities’ affair. Jewish worshipers should be free to pray on the holy mountain if they wish to.
Islamic leaders, aware of the centrality of the Temple Mount in Judaism, have whipped up a paranoid frenzy among their followers by carging that the intention of Jewish worshipers is to destroy the mosques. In October 1990, the mere sight at a distance of a dozen would-be Jewish worshipers (who had actually been turned away) triggered the blood-drenched Temple Mount riot.
Under these circumstances, the police prefer to avoid confrontation. The Wakf has obliterated the remnants of Jewish antiquities on the Temple Mount because enough Jews do not visit the Temple Mount. Nobody was there to guard the holy place.
There is a fine, but clear, line between doing everything possible to prevent unnecessary clashes and surrendering to terroristic threats.
Israel is the only democracy in the world in which Jews are forbidden to worship in an open space they consider hallowed. Those who lived in the country under the British Mandate or in USSR must be experiencing a twinge of deja vu.