Temple Mount Activist: Only the People Can Stop Desecration

Veteran Temple Mount activist says politicians won't stop Muslim desecration of Judaism's holiest site; answer is popular re-engagement.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 12/25/2013, 12:02 PM

Ancient Wooden Beams lie exposed after being discarded by the Waqf
Ancient Wooden Beams lie exposed after being discarded by the Waqf
Temple Institute

A special Knesset committee which met yesterday to discuss the ongoing destruction of Jewish antiquities on the Temple Mount, saw MKs and Antiquities Authority officials debating how best to end the alarming phenomenon atop Judaism's holiest site.

The destruction of Jewish artifacts by the Islamic Waqf trust is seen by many observers as part of a concerted effort to Islamize the Temple Mount, by erasing all traces of the Jewish Temples. Islamist and Palestinian Authority figures have long denied the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem in general, despite the wealth of archaeology and historical documentation to the contrary. Those present at the committee called for greater political involvement by government ministers in tackling the phenomenon - including the Prime Minister itself.

But speaking to Arutz Sheva, one veteran Temple Mount activist said he had little faith in the political establishment's willingness to tackle the problem, given the decades of inaction by successive Israeli governments. 

Instead, Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute insisted that the Temple Mount can only be preserved through popular re-emgagement, and increased awareness on the part of ordinary Jews worldwide.

"The Waqf's destruction of Temple remnants is deliberate and calculated. It's not an 'accusation'," he asserted. "They've already been convicted. And as far as their organized, aggressive harassment of Jewish visitors – this, too, is a demonstrable fact, which can be observed daily.

"The Waqf engages in 'Temple Denial Syndrome.' They deny that there ever was a Holy Temple here – and thereby they delegitimize any Jewish claim to Jerusalem, by obliterating Jewish history in preparation for the far-reaching 'final status' of Jerusalem." 

Rabbi Richman also dismissed claims by police that the situation on the Temple Mount has "improved" in recent months as "utterly ridiculous", adding that the harassment of Jewish visitors was still "a daily occurrence".

As part of a raft of restrictions, Jewish and other non-Muslim visitors are banned from praying at the site, and face arrest and summary bans from ascending if seen to break the rules. Religious Jews in particular are often harassed by Muslim extremists on the Mount.

"I visited the Temple Mount this morning and was mistreated and abused by members of the Waqf," he said. "Jewish visitors are discriminated against and degraded; their visits are barely tolerated... If it were reported that Jews were being treated this way in any other country, the State of Israel would protest strongly and condemn such acts of overt anti-Semitism."

But simply blaming the Waqf for the discrimination of Jewish visitors and destruction of Jewish antiquities is disingenuous, says Rabbi Richman. The root cause, he insists, is a lack of education and awareness within the Jewish community, which translates into apathy and a lack of popular resistance to the current situation, and in turn facilitates the continued inaction by authorities.

The Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site and the location of the two ancient Jewish Temples; yet centuries of anti-Semitic decrees by Christian and Muslim occupying powers banning Jews from it altogether - coupled with halakhic (Jewish legal) disputes over how to properly manage access to the site - has left the site vulnerable to abuse by political and religious extremists who oppose Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel in any form.

"Generations of Jews have been raised and taught that we have no connection to the Temple Mount; that it is a Muslim site and that we Jews belong down below at the Kotel (Western Wall). This complicit Jewish 'Temple Denial Syndrome' aids and abets our own destruction," he lamented.

The only way to force action on the part of the government is through popular re-engagement, he said.

"If that which should be the holiest thing to us, is literally trashed before our eyes, and we do not react – if we can be so insensitive to the life's blood of our own heritage – then we are deserving of every ignominy which befalls us," he concluded.