Op-Ed: The Low-Hanging Fruit Where Sukkot and Security Collide
The festival of Sukkot is upon us, a festival associated with fruit, and one of the ‘shalosh regalim’ (pilgrimages) that are meant to be made to the Temple Mount.
Today Jews are banned from ascending the Temple Mount except under extraordinary circumstances, and with significant limitations. This Sukkot, as with every Sukkot since the creation of the State of Israel—and before—there will not only be no sacrifice on the mount, but prayer, the mere moving of one’s lips, is forbidden. The reasons we are given as to why the situation is such can be compared to another aspect of Sukkot.
It is interesting that the secular state, and its secular national police in charge of the mount’s security, continue to reach for the ‘low hanging fruit’ at this very special time of year. The lulav markets are bustling, and thousands of etrogim (citrus) are on display.
But what would one do if they decided to pick their own etrog from their own tree? There are plenty of kosher, sweet smelling, bright etrogim on the low lying branches, ripe for the picking. One could easily reach out and literally grab one of these at arm’s length. But then, at the highest point of the tree the largest, brightest, sweetest etrog is. In order to get to it one needs a ladder.
Jewish access to the Temple Mount requires the police to act against potentially thousands of aggressive, rioting Arabs...it is much easier to avoid any problems...
But the ladder cannot sit on flat ground at the base of the tree. There are bees half way up, also wanting to get a smell of the sweet, prized etrog. If one were to fall, he would be scratched with branches on the way down and unknown injuries are possible.
Jewish access to the Temple Mount requires the police to act against potentially thousands of aggressive, rioting Arabs. To facilitate the basic right of Jewish prayer on Judaism’s single holiest site would require the police to exercise all the tools at their disposal. This is the big, beautiful etrog atop the tall tree. Alas, it is much easier to avoid any problems, and risks, to not waste resources, to confront but a handful of peaceful Jews who the police know from experience will not riot should they be literally turned away at the gates. This is the picking of the low hanging fruit..
From a security perspective this is completely understandable. Police from around the world regularly employ the tactics of the ‘low hanging fruit’ in a variety of scenarios. One may hear of an assault involving 10 attackers and 1 victim. When the police arrive, it is the victim they remove from the scene, even though he had every legal right to be there. Often the attackers are sent on their way, depending on the context of the attack, and where political considerations have influenced police policy; as they often do.
The police are merely tools of the state, implementing government policy and politics. While the right to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount has been repeated in multiple legal decisions and governmental declarations, the police have yet to be instructed that the low hanging fruit is not kosher, or that the government only wants the big beautiful etrog from the top of the tree and won’t settle for anything less than the best.
Such a move would be in line with what is expected of the government and would be only an affirmation of Jewish rights already enshrined in both Israeli and international law. It would be fitting for an Israeli government to demand only the best from its policies, and from its police, just as it does from its citizens and its IDF.
Ed Note: There are religious Zionist and Hareidi rabbis who abstain from ascending the Mount because of the possiblity of walking on holy areas whose location is not certain and which are forbidden in Jewish law. However, they, too, decry the treatment of Jews who do attempt to ascend.