Op-Ed: On the Temple Mount: Forces for Good in a Hostile World
Warning against wearing a prayer shawl has become a common practice in Europe, where today Jews hide their own identity and sidle along the walls like snakes.
Can Israel accept that this happens on Judaism's most holy site, the Temple Mount?
Excepting that of Likud faction leader Moshe Feiglin, their names are unknown to the public. Rabbi Yehuda Leibman, Dr. Menachem Ben-Yashar, Elyashiv Sherlo and Hagai Weiss. They were arrested on the Temple Mount during the Sukkot holiday for having bowed to God.
They are accused of being fanatic, medieval, benighted and cultic, while they are really bright, humble and feisty individuals driven by a common cause they perceive as greater than themselves.
They have been chosen as Israel’s scapegoats, the ever-guilty, the Jewish State’s Jews. They are the target for the arrows of Israel-haters, both domestically and abroad.
But they are Israel's unknown heroes.
The Jews on the Temple Mount can be arrested if they stand still too long, if they carry religious paraphenalia, if they nod their heads, if they move their lips, if they close their eyes or if they remove a paper from their pockets and read it.
They know it. But they do it anyway, because they believe there is something more important than themselves. They are not provocateurs, but they know that the only way to get respect and rights is by engaging a confrontation not with the Arabs, but also with Israel's surreal laws.
They are the only obstacle to the Temple Mount's final Islamization and Arabization while the United Nations, the European beaurocrats, the global media, the Islamic forums and Israel's defeationists are all trying to destroy the Jewish connection to the Mount.
Those who were arrested on the Temple Mount resemble the Middle Ages' Jews who chose martyrdom rather than forced conversion and Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, who was jailed in an Alsatian fortress after he refused a ransom raised by Jews to release him, for fear of creating a precedent that would be exploited by anti-Semites.
In the Soviet Union a prayer shawl, a skullcap, a Hebrew calendar were proofs used to exile Jews in the "re-education gulags".
Last night I had a conversation with Professor Hillel Weiss after his son Hagai was arrested on the Temple Mount.
"The police officer phoned me. I told him I was not going to persuade my son to sign. 'I personally would sell my mother to get a minute of freedom'". Ultimately he signed the conditions for release.
I don't know how many people, expecially out of Israel, would dare to risk so much for their faith and the safety of their own people. How many of us would spend a night in jail to follow a religious commandment? How many fathers would ask their sons to resist behind bars?
How many Yosef Mendelevich's are out there? He spent 12 years in the Gulag. On Pessah, he re-enacted the Exodus story by leading his cellmates over puddles of water, reminiscent of the splitting of the Red Sea.
Or like the rest of the Soviet group who kidnapped the airplane and some of whom now live in Elkana.
Unknown heroes like those families scampering over the playground in Hevron, tucked inside the crumbling ruins of the Jewish Quarter dating back to the 16th century. Boys with sidelocks and pregnant women with kerchiefs on their heads, who have been used as targets for the terrorist shootings.
Unknown heroes like Mordechai and Shalom Lapid, who gave their lives to build Kiryat Arba and Elon Moreh. Lapid came from Riga, and found death in Hevron. At age fourteen, Lapid had tried to leave Lithuania by sneaking onto a foreign ship.
How many Jonathan Pollards are willing to spend 27 years in a solitary jail for having saved his own people from biochemical threats? An entire nation has betrayed him, save for the few who persistently fight for him. Has the nation forgotten that Pollard gave to the Israeli intelligence the maps needed to bombard PLO's headquarter in Tunisi?
Those who bowed on the Temple Mount are normal people, just persevering and tough, who see themselves as part of a work in progress: "Israel". Their lives are a living statement: this is the land and faith for which we are ready to fight and lay down our lives.
The teenagers who live in and build Samaria’s hills, with their long hair flying in the wind, their yarmulkes askew, and their fringes peeking out from under faded t-shirts are outstanding individuals, instilled with ideals that their government ministers can only envy.
They are unknown heroes lik those who were expelled from The Peace House in Hevron or last year bought a house near the Cave of the Patriarchs. They stand on the frontlines with great sacrifice.
Unknown heroes like Moshe Saperstein, who was seriously wounded in an suicide attack on a civilian car at the entrance to Gush Katif, as he was returning from a shopping trip to Ashkelon. First Moshe also lost his right arm in the Yom Kippur War, then he lost fingers on his (one) good hand.
The same is true for the teenagers who live in and build Samaria’s hills, with their long hair flying in the wind, their yarmulkes askew, and their fringes peeking out from under faded t-shirts. They are outstanding individuals, instilled with ideals that their government ministers can only envy.
Many have lived through the murder of friends and relatives by terrorists. Most have adopted a very religious life style. No drugs or TV. No playing around. They're not hanging out at discos. They have no steaming water. No electricity. They kept Samaria's hills for years.
If they would not be there, who would be? A friend told me: "They carry the entire war for the land on their shoulders". How many youngsters like these can Europe count?
A Jewish presence on Mount of Olives is possible only because Ma’aleh Hazeitim, the name of a tiny Jewish comunity near the Sephardic section of the cemetery. Their task is to secure the area day and night, ensuring its character as a Jewish cemetery. There are eight courageous, young Jewish families in Beit Hachoshen, a building with a large Israeli flag on its roof bordering on the A-Tur entrance to the Mount below the Seven Arches Hotel.
The 70 C.E. destruction of the Holy Temple, the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648, the Holocaust, all are vividly present for these Jews, and so are the issues of theodicy that they raise. Their insistence that everything has a purpose forces them to seek to extract something positive from even the darkest events, and protects them from despair.
Israel has a lot to learn from their holy stoicism. These people, like those who were arrested, represent the mystery and stubbornness of Jewish survival. When the Temple Mount is in danger, Jewish lives, and their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, Netanya, Acre, and the rest of the country, are also threatened. That's why those who fight for the Temple Mount protect the entire State of Israel.
These people resemble Jan Palach, the 20-year-old Czech philosophy student who burned himself to death in Prague in 1969 a few months after the Soviet invasion of his country. Not because they have to sacrifice themselves by paying the ultimate price, but because they give to courage, honor and freedom a new face and name.
Hagai Weiss' sister lives in Hevron’s Tel Rumeida, a Jewish enclave which became a round-the-clock target of shooting and sniper fire. She and her husband have eight children and live in a trailer. He is a caretaker of the graves of Ruth and Yishai which lie next to their home. She is studying about children with disabilities.
In the time of the great Western betrayal and Etienne de la Boetie's voluntary servitude, these unknown Jewish heroes are a force for good in a hostile world.