I am blessed to live in Jerusalem. The Old City is a leisurely 15-minute stroll from my door. Another five minutes or so finds me standing at the Western Wall. Mind you, that is on days when access to the Kotel plaza is permitted. Normally, this is not a problem, but things have changed recently.
Last Friday, the Western Wall was off limits to the public thanks to Arab protesters hurling stones and scuffling with police atop the Temple Mount, while anti-Israel sermons blared from the speakers of the Al-Aska Mosque. A bus full of Canadian tourists making its way back from the Mount of Olives was surrounded by Arab protesters near the Old City on Friday and pelted with stones, necessitating a rescue of the stranded bus and its passengers by police. Thankfully, the tourists were not hurt. The bus sustained severe damage.
On Shabbat day, praying at the Western Wall was permitted, but the Jaffa Gate and the Lion Gate were both closed to the public, leaving one entrance: a heavily guarded Zion Gate. Unless you chose to enter from East Jerusalem - a tad dicey given the riots in the streets in which young Arab men burned tires, hurled stones and lead pipes, and tossed in a petrol bomb "just for fun."
On Saturday evening, the parting holiness of the Sabbath was pierced by the incessant wail of police sirens that made sleeping less than peaceful.
Sunday morning arrived with a tangible breath of approaching Spring. Rejoicing in the beauty of the day, I walked three blocks to a produce vendor on Emek Refaim St., passing my neighborhood convenience store with its pleasant young clerk who always has a smile and a cheery word. Fifteen minutes later, I exited the store to find traffic backed up as far as the eye can see. I looked in the direction of my home to see a bomb sapper delicately tugging on ropes to disengage a suspicious package from a exterior newsstand outside my neighborhood convenience store.
A backpack filled with rags had been stuffed into the newsstand. No owner was in sight. Smart shopkeepers take no chances here in Israel. I found the store clerk, visibly shaken, clutching his cell phone in hand, at the burger shop where police had set up one of their barricades to allow the bomb sapper to work without obstruction. Thank God, the backpack was someone's sick idea of a joke. No explosives were found, but the perpetrator had succeeded in interrupting commerce for all businesses in the area, tying up traffic for blocks around, and unnerving a goodly number of people.
Why, pray tell, are we having such exciting times these days? Why are the Arabs protesting? The Jerusalem Post just published an article saying Hamas claims responsibility for the incitement. What is their source of aggravation?
The Arabs are claiming that the requisite archaeological excavation work in the area of the new access ramp to the Mughrabi Gate (the only gate by which Jews may access the Temple Mount) is an intentional effort on the part of Israel to undermine the stability of the Al-Aska Mosque.
Wait a minute!
The work on this new access ramp has been underway for at least two years. Only now they are complaining? Furthermore, the Al-Aska Mosque is located on the Temple Mount, a goodly distance from both the Mughrabi Gate and the archaeological excavation in the area of the women's prayer court at the Kotel. The excavation work and the construction of the new ramp have significantly decreased the size of the women's courtyard. Sometimes, I feel like I'm praying in a sardine can. But have you heard any protest from the Jewish women patiently putting up with the inconvenience of the construction work?
Wait a minute!
What about all the excavation work carried out several years ago by the Arab authorities in the area known as Solomon's Stables, directly under the surface of the Temple Mount and adjacent to the Al-Aska mosque? Arab construction of a large underground mosque in this area not only resulted in the willful destruction of tons of First and Second Temple artifacts, it also caused the Southern Wall of the Temple compound to become unstable, necessitating repairs to reinforce it lest the entire Temple Mount in the area of the Al-Aska mosque collapse.
The work on this new access ramp has been underway for at least two years. Only now they are complaining?
Under cover of nightfall, truckloads of rubble containing thousands of precious artifacts from the Temple periods were carried away, a mixture of refuse and archaeological treasures. Some of these "debris" piles were deposited on the grounds of the Temple Mount itself, blatantly "in your face" chutzpahdik. Jewish archaeologists voiced their alarm and people who care for the sanctity of the Temple Mount and the preservation of Jewish history cried out in protest, but our voices fell on deaf ears; and written protests were victimized by bureaucratic blindness. Surely, the excavation work done by the Arabs themselves had to cause real damage to the structural stability of the Al-Aska mosque.
As the prophets proclaimed, we are living in days where black is white and white is black. People have eyes, but see not; ears, but hear not. Sanity and reason have been thrown to the wind.
I have heard it mentioned by an authoritative source that within the famed "Eastern Gate" there is a Muslim office that administers "reward payments" to the families of successful suicide bombers. The same authoritative source also made it known that the only people now allowed to be buried in the Muslim cemetery in front of the Eastern Gate are Islamic terrorists and whatever identifiable pieces remain of suicide bombers.
On our northern border, the IDF is once again in conflict with the Lebanese army (bolstered by UNIFIL troops). From the southwest comes the uninterrupted barrage of Kassam rockets and mortars into Sederot, Ashkelon and neighboring Jewish communities. A new "unity government" of Hamas and Fatah finds that the first business of record they can really agree on is to refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist, which, of course, puts all previous PLO "accords" with Israel up for grabs. Terrorists were rounded up in Hevron and the Shomron on Shabbat - a temporary restriction of mobility, I'm sure. Rachel's Tomb was attacked on Shabbat, while hundreds of Arab demonstrators hurled rocks and debris at police in Bethlehem.
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the one place in the world where the Creator of the Universe chose to place His Name and His Sanctuary. He stipulated that Israel and the nations would come to worship Him there. Over the Temple Molunt, a powder keg is reaching combustion point. A short distance away, Mt. Zion, which figures so prominently in the prophecies of the ultimate Redemption, finds itself prey to Vatican interests and political maneuverings that would wrench it from Jewish jurisdiction. Back at the Temple Mount, Mt. Moriah has but a single gate that opens its doors to Jewish pilgrims, and that gate and the ramp that leads to it are under fire, literally and figuratively.
God forbid that Jews should lose the only point of access that we have to this most holy place on earth. Should we lose access, it is safe to assume that Christians will find themselves in similar straits. In 1967, the wisdom of "political tolerance" decreed that Israel relinquish our jurisdiction over the Temple Mount. The heat of the battle that was rewarded by such a miraculous victory had barely cooled. Will the "wisdom" of political tolerance and the foreign pressures for "peace" decree such foolish measures yet again?
Isn't it time we woke up?