Op-Ed: There is Apartheid in Israel
I can't help but feel a small, minute feeling of what my people have historically had to go through over and over, how they were segregated as Jews.
Israel, is an Apartheid State. There, I said it! I have been denying this and defending this same State for my entire adult life. Let me explain.
Recently, thanks to Facebook, I was made aware that MK (member of Knesset) Moshe Feiglin was making his planned monthly visit to the Temple Mount. Mr. Feiglin invited anyone who wished to join him to do so. I thought it would be great to do so, while joining an MK and maybe learning something new. Never to miss an opportunity to experience and learn, especially in Israel, I woke up at about 5:30 AM, grabbed my friend Mordechai, went to the Mikvah (ritual bath, a necessary halakhic prerequisite for ascending) and headed to Jerusalem.
We parked and walked toward the Temple Mount Ascent via the Mughrabi bridge, the access point to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims. When we arrived, there was a line of approximately 500 tourists waiting to ascend the Temple Mount as one of the stops on their tour. A big chunk of these tourists were Dutch educators, more about them soon.
I will briefly explain the protocol for those who have never been or have never ascended The Temple Mount. There are essentially two doors with metal detectors and an x-ray machine. The Jews cut to the front of the line. This is not some special treatment Jews get, at least not in the traditional sense, nor is it an Israeli aggressive move just to get ahead in line. No, this is where I learned of Israel's Apartheid status first hand. The Mughrabi Bridge is essentially an afterthought, a ramshackle wooden bridge which accesses the Temple Mount from the 'Jewish oriented' Kotel Plaza (Wailing Wall). The bridge was recently reinforced and made more permanent, yet certainly is not a proper structure, even by Middle Eastern standards.
Beginning at 7:30 AM and ending at 10 AM (excepting "security events") everyone lines up. Access is during these designated hours (unclear by whom, Police or Waqf). The Jews must go to the front of this line leading up to the bridge, give in their ID card and wait. Today, this line was to the left door, and the non-Jewish, mostly Christian tourists, through the right door. The tourists are allowed to pass freely through the security check and onto the mount in their large and growing numbers as the time passes. Through the "Jewish Door", MK Moshe Feiglin and most, but not all of his group pass through and are on their way up to The Temple Mount, and we are right behind him.
Suddenly one of the many Police officers stops the Jewish flow of traffic, and says casually in Hebrew, "that is it, no more, but don't worry, we will allow you to go in, in a few more minutes". The Jewish groups are very limited in size and are escorted by a heavy police presence in what would be described generally as riot gear-equipped police. Mind you, this whole time, the tourists are passing freely through.
One such tourist was a Christian nun, dressed in her habit inclusive of her prayer beads. In her purse, like a good nun, she carried a small Bible. This nun did not speak Hebrew or English and as such the security personnel were unable to effectively explain to her how she could not ascend The Temple Mount with any religious "paraphernalia" lest anyone upset the Muslim population and the Waqf who essentially control this sacred piece of land, the holiest on Earth to Jews (and that to which the Muslims place their backs to, while praying towards Mecca).
Finally the nun gets the hint and deposits her beads and Holy Bible, all the while not understanding why she has to part with her religious items, and goes on her merry way. Since the Jewish line is now at a standstill, I am sitting with about 30 Jewish people whom I don't know, watching the tourists move right along. After the nun passes sans Bible and beads, both of the doors suddenly close. Apparently, there is a security situation and no one else will be allowed to ascend the Mount.
Now we are all stuck, a total crowd of over 500 people (in my estimation) standing in a line, with nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait, and wait. What does one do in this situation? Obviously as Jews, we talk to those around us.
I had engaged some of the Dutch tourists, all educators and standing near me, who spoke English. Besides being complemented on the level and "American-ness" of my English (They thought I was a Native Israeli), which is good to know that "I still got it" , I explained to them what was happening since they had no clue and didn't speak Hebrew.
Mr. Feiglin was on the Temple Mount with his group of allotted Jews. As told to me my a member of this group, who subsequently returned, Israel's security forces asked the Muslim Waqf security people, who are really more of an observer force, but have been given tremendous power - with the ability to force anyone they want to leave or face arrest by police - to please give them some room, and stand 20 meters away from the group, especially with an MK and his security needs in mind.
The Waqf pays especially close attention to all Jews while on The Mount, and even more so to politicians. As such, they like to hover and ensure Heaven forbid, no words of prayer are uttered by no Muslims on The Mount. This was apparently too much for the Waqf members and their Muslim cohorts to bear and the peace-loving Muslims on the Temple Mount began to throw rocks at the group of Jews and MK.
While explaining this all to our tourist friends - who we truly do love for visiting and participating regardless of their religious or political intentions or ideology, I couldn't help but take a second to look at what was happening as it unfolded. Here I am an American who made Aliyah to Israel, living in the Democratic State of Israel in 2014, ready to ascend the Temple Mount - great!
Then I have other thoughts. I can't help but feel a small, minute feeling of what my people have historically had to go through over and over, how they were segregated as Jews. Let me be very clear, I am not making a connection to the pain, horror and evil the Jews and others in Europe went through in the Holocaust, not for a second. I would never disgrace their memory and that of all those who were murdered, in that way. I only reflected on this selection process of Jews and non-Jews going through different doors, in Jewish controlled Israel in 2014.
Is this really happening? Yup, every day, between 7:30 and 10AM.
The Muslims have their own entrance and can enter at will, and the tourists, and much less so, the Jews can enter, sometimes, with conditions and at the will of the Israeli Police.
This doesn't seem like a Democratic process. This doesn't sound like "the only Democratic State in the Middle East", as Israel always claims to be. This sounds like a weak, pathetic people who cannot allow part of its citizenship free access to a particular area, while allowing other parts of its citizenship free and nearly unfettered access to the same area.
The word Apartheid literally means the state of being apart, enacted in South Africa, ironically in 1948 the same year Israel declared its independence. Is this not Apartheid in action? against Jews? in a Jewish State? The liberals out there and the BDS movement call Israel an Apartheid State regularly and boycott it for this, that or the other (or nothing at all).
Unfortunately though, the only Apartheid I see in Israel is against Jews. Here at the Mughrabi bridge (an intentionally temporary structure so as not to claim official permanent Jewish ties - EVERYTHING is symbolic in the Middle East), there is no dispute that it is a state of apart-hood, the literal translation of Apartheid. Is there any other reading of this? How can there be?
While talking to my new Dutch friends, and explaining the situation, they asked, "but, why are you treated differently?". How do I answer this so that it will make sense to them? I couldn't really find a plausible answer other than saying "Israel has become weak. in 1967 when Israel recaptured and reunified Jerusalem, they let the Waqf stay in power. Today, we are too weak to change anything. Everyone is afraid to upset the apple cart." "But why? Isn't this Israel?" they persisted. I answered with the only words I had left....I don't know!
At this point, the tourist line opened up again, and my new friends wished me well and said "don't worry, one day this will be different and you will be allowed to go up, and we will also be allowed to go up freely and see where it all began". WOW! the Dutch tourists are giving the Jewish guy Chizuk (spiritual uplifting) that it will be ok, you will return to Zion and once again Ascend the Holy Temple Mount where people of all Nations were once welcomed and will be so again, may it be speedily in our time.
The remaining tourists carried on in droves. 20 Jews or so ascended today but Mordechai and I were turned away and did not ascend, as there were "no more Jews allowed".