Last year I asked my Rabbi what his opinion was on ascending the Temple Mount. He was not in favor of Jews going in our day, especially for political reasons. At that time I accepted this as psak and was content with other means of spiritually connecting with G-d. In addition I was never a political activist. I prefer the power of prayer, the weapon of the pen, and social intercourse infused with patience and understanding as methods of change. I sympathize with those who believe a public presence is important to display how valuable Har Habayit is to Jews, but at the same time realize how it adds fuel to the already heated climate between us and our sworn enemies. I never wanted to be the one to add difficulty to an almost impossible situation.
It was current events that agitated me and brought me back to my Rabbi. The acceleration of global antisemitism coupled with Iran’s ability to produce nuclear warheads in the not so distant future roused my need to do something more. It was before the Purim holiday and I was inspired by Queen Esther, who risked her life and the Prime Minister, who was taking a gamble by planning to address congress.
This time when I asked my Rabbi, the question was not couched in general terms, but specifically whether “I” could ascend Har Habayit. He wasn’t keen on it, but upon learning that it was my deep desire to connect with The Source and not politically motivated, he consented. I was compelled to go before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s monumental speech so that I too, would act above and beyond my comfort zone and do something extraordinary at this crucial moment. Luckily, I have a good friend who has gone many times before and agreed to take me.
I did not realize the emotional impact this was going to have on me even before I set foot on the Temple Mount. When the Rabbi gave me permission to go, I was moved to tears, which I had no idea would be forthcoming. I felt like an abandoned child who was told I could return home and that my parents were waiting there to embrace me. All through my preparations I felt a nervous excitement such as I hadn’t felt since the eve of my wedding day.
I rose at dawn that day to pray Shacharit and left my home with enough time to pour out my heart in prayer at the Kotel. I asked G-d that since it was forbidden for me to pray on Har Habayit that He take the prayers I had just uttered, which would still be present in my heart and mind, as if they were said while standing on Har Habayit.
I met my friend a half hour before Jewish “visiting hours” to wait on line to be approved to ascend. I was told to brace myself for the hateful shouts of “Allahu Akhbar!” that would be sure to greet me and protest my visit as I walked around the Temple Mount. I thought I would experience my blood boiling in anger as it had the many times I viewed video clips of their venomous shouts, but I didn’t. Their screaming felt empty and meaningless to me. I was experiencing a surreal form of existence and kept walking as if in a dream. My friend gave me the tour and taught me historic, religious, and personal significance of what we did and did not see.
I found myself unusually silent, fully comprehending at that moment the intent of the insertion of the words “Ado-nai sfati tiftach ufi yagid tehilatecha” before the Shemonah Esrah Tefillah. I was awestruck and dumbfounded, unable to utter any words of meaning in the presence of holiness. I was heartbroken by my current inability to freely pray to G-d in the proper way. I was also amazed that I felt at home in a place I have never been before, while being followed around by police and had enemies shouting at me. It was then I was convinced that I had done the right thing.
The rest of the day flew by with a sense of peace I carried believing that G-d received my small offering with love. Days have passed and I don’t know when the next time I will be blessed to ascend Har Habayit again, but I do know that I have found a new love, a new passion, and a new yearning that will never leave me.