In the past, when I have visited the Temple Mount, I have never done so with political intentions. As I walked up the Mugrabbi Bridge, the words of Psalm 122 on my lips, I have only thought of the fact that this is the place where according to the tradition of my ancestors, Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed.
Muttering my final words of legal prayer (due to political relations with Jordan and security fears non-Muslim prayer on-site at the Temple Mount has been outlawed by the Israeli government since 1967), “I rejoiced with those who said to me ‘let us go to the house of G-d,’” I make an effort to clear my mind of any hateful thought, and try to focus on my heritage.
I try to picture the stream of pilgrims ascending to the very same place in the times of the Temple, with their offerings in hand, hoping (like me) to come close to their G-d at the holiest site for the Jewish people.
For me, it has never been about proclaiming Jewish sovereignty, rather reclaiming my Jewish roots.
Last night, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, my friend and teacher who has guided me on numerous occasions on the Temple Mount, was shot while exiting a conference on freedom of rights for Jews on the Temple Mount.
It just got personal. It just got political.
It is absurd that Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. It is tragic that any identifiable Jew on the Temple Mount is greeted with jeers. It is unbelievable that after all of these years, the government’s best response to the sensitivity of the site is to close it entirely on tense days, barring any non-Muslim (Israelis and tourists alike) from a visit.
But most of all, it is unfathomable that a person whose life’s work is to ensure Jewish rights on the Temple Mount should be in any danger for doing so.
Israel prides itself on being a democratic state and on the freedom of religion that it offers to all. The various mosques and churches add to both the physical and spiritual skyline of the country. I am not calling for anybody to be banned from the Temple Mount, nor for the closure of any of the Muslim holy sites located there.
As a tour guide, I appreciate their beauty and history. As a human being I appreciate the value that they hold to those of the Muslim belief.
All I am asking for is that I be allowed to pray for Rabbi Glick’s speedy recovery next to those believers, in the place that according to Jewish tradition is the closest that we can get to G-d.
It is undemocratic to be denied this right, no matter what the security situation might be, or what anybody’s religious beliefs might be.
If we have reached a state of affairs where a Jew’s life is in danger for encouraging others to ascend to the Temple Mount, the solution should not be limiting Jewish activity or closing the site. Rather, the government and police must do everything in their power to increase security and protect this golden right of democracy for believers.
Instead of arresting those who mutter non-Muslim prayers, they should be investing their energy into arresting those who insist on barring and rioting as a reaction to such prayers.
And if this cannot be done, then indeed, my ascension to the Temple Mount can no longer be merely about my connections to the past, rather it must be an act of protest assuring that this Jewish heritage be allowed to continue in present times and the future.
Throughout Israel’s history we have striven for peace with our Muslim neighbors. Peace can only be possible when we are able to pray for it together.
May all of mankind merit the ability to pray together, and fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah (56, 7) – “For my house will be a house of prayer for all nations.”