One of the reasons I made aliyah was because of the Temple Mount. I had dreams of seeing the Jewish people reconnect with their only holy place.
Only holy place? Yes. In a strict halachic sense, Judaism only recognizes holiness beggining with the land of Israel and then at the walls of Jerusalem, with increasing levels of sanctity as one progresses from the borders of Temple Mount toward the holy of holies. Once David built his altar on Mt. Moriah, It became the one and only place to which we were commanded to come and worship.
That’s why I came to Israel and that’s why I was a regular at the Temple Mount for 10 years. But over the last couple of years, something happened. I began to see the status quo steadily changing in a way that eroded the already trampled rights, freedoms and security promised by the state of Israel in its laws governing freedom of worship and holy places.
When the police began to make us wait longer (sometimes up to 2 hours) for entry, I got suspicious. When extremists threw rocks at us and the police officer standing behind me said “What rocks? Keep moving!”, I knew things were changing. When they began to allow Islamic extremists to approach us and curse at us, I got the message. The message from the Prime Minister, the Supreme Court, the Police and the Chief Rabbinate was clear. “Go away and stay away.”
That isn’t what disturbed me the most. What really bothered me was that the message being sent to me, inadvertantly sent a message to Muslim extremists. That message was also clear. “Jews who have dedicated themselves to basic human rights and freedoms on the Temple Mount are fair game and the state is scaling back measures taken to protect them.”
I got the message and so did Islamic extremists on the Temple Mount. Allowing mobs to approach and curse couldn’t help but escalate to physical contact with unarmed, defenseless Jews, and sadly, it did.
I wondered if the police would actually let it go further? Could they allow these extremists to do more than curse, spit, slap, pull hair and throw things?
With this question in mind, I made the decision to stop ascending the Mount. It wasn’t easy. For most of my life in Israel, going to the Temple Mount was just part of my Judaism. This is where I went to pray for the sick, to give thanks, to ask for help, to ask for forgiveness. Yet in spite of all this, I didn’t feel comfortable going and encouraging others to go to a place where I knew a decision had been made to compromise their safety.
I got the message and the Islamic extremists got the message. They got the message on the Temple Mount and took it to Beit Haninah/Shuafat. They took that message from Shuafat and Beit Haninah to Ammunition Hill. And now, with the shooting and attempted murder of Temple Mount activist, Rav Yehuda Glick, they have taken it from Ammunition Hill to the Menachem Begin Center in the heart of Jerusalem.
I had good reasons for walking away from the Temple Mount. I could no longer tell people “You’ll be fine up there. There’s full security”. The Israeli government, the courts, the police, the Chief Rabbinate and (let’s be honest) most religious Jews don’t want me or any other Jew on that mountain.
I also know that there are good reasons to not walk away from the Temple Mount, and what happened to Yehudah Glick last night made me think twice about my decision. I’m still thinking and so far, I have no answer.
On his deathbed, Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai reflected upon his decisions during the siege of Jerusalem, saying “Two paths are before me, one to Gan Eden and the other to Gehinnom, and I do not know upon which I am to be led – shall I not weep?”
Did I do the right thing, or did I betray the one and only place that God placed his name forever? Shall I not weep?