A Temple Mount story

On the 17th of Tammuz about 2000 years ago, the Romans breached the Old City Walls. Today, in the State of Israel, Jews are the only ones who cannot pray on the Temple Mount.

Tzvi Fishman, | updated: 12:35

Tzvi Fishman
Tzvi Fishman
INN: TF

Temple Mount Blues

The twenty-year-old American tourist, Peter, gazed across the broad plaza at the Kotel. Taking a year off from college, he had traveled to London, Paris, Rome, and India. Nearby, a guide was giving a history lesson to a group of tourists who were all wearing orange baseball caps. One of them held a sign saying, “Florida Baptist Mission.” Holding up a red flag, the guide waved his arm in a “follow me” motion.

“Where are you going?” Peter asked one of the members of the group, a Black man wearing the high, white collar of a pastor.

“Up to the Temple Mount.”

“What’s the Temple Mount?” Peter asked.

“It’s the site of the ancient Jewish Temple built by King David and King Solomon,” the man explained.

“Cool,” Peter said, deciding to join the group. He had never heard of the Temple Mount. Back home in Los Angeles, his family belonged to a Reform Congregation, but outside of lighting Hanukah candles, he had no connection to Judaism at all.

After walking up a long ramp, an Israeli soldier waved them into a broad courtyard. A group of Japanese tourists listened to a guide who spoke in Japanese. Further away, Arabs squatted on their knees praying. In the distance, children played soccer. Behind them, a large shrine rose over the cobblestone courtyard, crowned with a golden dome.

“Is that the Jewish Temple?” Peter asked the Black pastor.

“No. It’s a Moslem shrine that was built a thousand years after the Jewish Temple was destroyed by the Romans.”

“Awesome,” Peter said. When the group started to sing a popular religious hymn from the time of the American Civil War, Peter joined in the singing. In order to get a better look at impressive shrine, he stepped away from the others, still singing the old Negro ballad, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Suddenly, he heard Arabs screaming and pointing his way. A policeman grabbed his arm and started to drag him away.

“What’s going on?!” Peter demanded to know.

“Shtok!” the policeman answered in Hebrew, twisting Peter’s arm behind his back. The group of excited Arabs continued to yell.

“I’m an American!” Peter shouted, struggling to break free. With a judo-like movement, the policeman toppled him to the ground and pressed his knee into Peter’s spine. The youth groaned in pain. Moments later, he was handcuffed. The policeman dragged him to his feet. Soldiers appeared, their rifles pointed in all directions.

“What’s going on?” a police commander asked, arriving at the scene.

Again, Peter tried struggled to break free.

“I caught the kid praying,” the policeman reported, clutching Peter in a choke hold.

“I was singing,” Peter protested. “Let me go!”

“You’re under arrest,” the policeman told him, gripping him tightly.

“Under arrest for what?” the dumbfounded tourist wanted to know.

“For praying on the Temple Mount, resisting arrest, striking an officer, and endangering public safety.”

That sounded like a lot. Peter realized he was in serious trouble, but he still didn’t understand why.

“Are you sure he’s a Jew?” the commander asked.

“Yes, I’m a Jew,” Peter told him. “So what?”

“Jews aren’t allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.”

“What’s the matter with praying here?” Peter demanded to know. “This is a holy site, isn’t it? Other people were praying. Arrest them too!”

“Other people can do what they want here. Not Jews.”

“At the site of the Temple built by the Jews? That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life!” Peter told him.

“Tell it to the judge,” the commander replied.

A barrage of rocks rained down around them. Gunshots echoed over the Mount. The smell of tear gas filled the air. The group of tourists from Florida hurried toward the exit. Cops and soldiers dragged Peter away.

“I’m an American!” he shouted again. “Didn’t you ever hear of freedom of speech and freedom of religion? Israel is a democracy, isn’t it? In America, a Jew can pray wherever he wants.”

“This isn’t America,” the commander answered. “This is Jerusalem.”

     


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