In the following Tisha Báv post, I focus on the loss not only of our Temple, but of our access to our holiest site. I am not losing sight of current world injustice and terrible occurrences all over the planet. One of the values I love about Judaism is the importance of tikkun olam, “fixing the world”. Elie Weisel, zichrono levracha, a great man who we recently lost, established an organization that was not focused only on helping Jews, but on assisting all those who need it worldwide. That said, there are times when one’s focus on the forest causes losing sight of the individual trees. In this case, our current holiday of mourning the Temple is not just mourning the fact that the Temple is gone, but that our own actions at the time precipitated the loss. Our continued divisiveness and self-hate are contributing factors to our continued sad state of having a religion without a place to focus our prayers, a nation without cohesion.
This week, during the nine days leading up to the day we mourn for the Beit Hamikdash (the Temple), I had the displeasure of reading a comment written by a Jew on an article that talked about how a Jewish man was arrested for crying on Har Habayit (the Temple Mount).
Arrested for crying!! Yes, you read that correctly. This commenter said how it was understandable that the Arabs in charge might have seen his tears as a prayer, as if that justified their outrageous response! She was right about one thing; tears are considered one path of prayer that opens the gates to Hashem (G-d) when no other gate may be open. They are a sincere expression of our deepest feelings, hard to fake and hard to force. They show G-d that we are truly hurting, truly regretful, and truly repentant. She tried to explain (Jewsplain?) how the Wakf probably thought that this Jew was upset that an inferior religion was on his holy place. How could she venture to guess what the Wakf thought the man was thinking, or even what the man himself thought? What I found particularly repugnant was this woman’s belief that these actions were okay, and that we are in the wrong for even wanting to set foot on our most holy site. She mentioned the word site a few times, once writing it when she clearly meant ‘sight’ instead, when she wrote, “What is the purpose of being so emotional and respectful of a religious site if in the process you lose site [sic] of the whole reason the site is religious?” I grudgingly agree that thinking that the site of the Temple is more important than the fact that we are a people divided is another root cause of where we stand vis á vis the world today, yet I think she is missing her own point. Part of our division is our willingness to keep placing others’ rights over those of our own people. What we are doing to ourselves justifies and allows others to merely join in when they vilify us.
I also cry about the real meaning of our lost Temple. It means that for so many years we wandered without a home, were tortured and murdered, sent wandering again, and were not allowed to get close to our holy places. Yet when we returned to our country, we still did not have Jerusalem. Nineteen years later, we won it back. Eicha- How can it be that we won back our capital city, Jerusalem, and still are being denied access to Har Habayit? I am not saying go up there and destroy what they have; I still feel that is in the hands of G-d to decide when that happens. But by our not fighting for these rights, by supporting those who are standing on our holy places and telling us we are not allowed to be there, it seems that we have not yet earned the right to even cry at the injustice when we see what has become of our holiest site.
From an article on ArutzSheva: “According to the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan, Jews are required to have access to the Temple Mount. However, Jordan, which occupied the Mount, refused to honor its promise and forbade Jews from visiting their holiest site.
After Israel liberated all of Jerusalem in 1967, it allowed Muslims to continue preventing Jews from entering the Temple Mount.”
The man crying was upsetting to the Arab guard, but it is the site, not the sight, of the man’s tears that is the root of the problem. The fact that we cannot freely go up to our holy site, that Jews have less status and rights than any other religion to set our eyes on the place that we once used to get close to G-d, that is the heart of what is wrong. Not that the man was crying, but that many of us can’t (or won’t, out of fear of upsetting the status quo) even get as far as he did and touch our own hallowed ground.
The Arab policeman was angry, the Jewish man was arrested, and some Jews think it is understandable. The crime is in that idea itself. Why should we have to justify or sneak in to our holy place which is being desecrated by Arab kids playing soccer there? Why can we barely get up there to visit, let alone that we are not allowed to pray or apparently, even cry there? Why? Because we lost those rights two thousand years ago, and when we had the chance to stand up for those rights, we did not. And why can’t we go there today? Because we are still justifying those who don’t want us there, and giving in to the idea that they belong there and we don’t.
Every year at this time we cry, and we will continue to cry, as long as we remain divided, and as long as there are Jews in organizations who think it is more important to fight for the rights of others even when those organizations themselves say we have no right to exist. When we stop lying down and taking the abuse, stop saying yes when others say we don’t have the right to be in our own country or defend ourselves, stop believing the lies and stop giving up everything we care about; when we start believing in our own right to exist and to visit our own holy places, then we will earn the right to get our Temple back, and be able to stop crying for the site we lost.