I have never been a fan of attending organized prayer services at the Western Wall on Shabbat or Chagim (festivals). Maybe some would consider that statement blasphemous, but I’m just being honest.
The plaza on those special days is usually a very crowded ‘balagan’, or madhouse where after selecting a minyan (quorum) to join for prayer, actually being able to hear the one leading the service and being able to follow along without the noise from all of the other services taking place interfering, makes it nearly impossible to pray.
Combine that with the lack of shade in the plaza area and it leaves one to bake and dehydrate in the sun instead of concentrating on what’s supposed to be a spiritual and uplifting experience.
But despite the rationale behind my objections, this past Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot, I decided to attend the morning services at the Wall in order to hear the reading of the book of Kohelet – Ecclesiastes, believed to have been composed by none other than King Solomon, whose Temple stood on the Mount above the Wall.
What better place to hear Solomon’s book about the meaning of life and G-d’s role in the world than in Jerusalem, and at the Western Wall?
But on that morning, rather than experiencing an awareness, or closeness to G-d, I instead felt a burning sensation of anger and frustration.
My emotions hit their peak during the reading itself, when instead of concentrating on the text of the Megillah, my eyes were gazing upwards, towards the Temple Mount just above.
On one hand, I understand the religious and historical significance of the Western Wall in Judaism including in this young nation’s history, but I fear that in reality, the ‘Wall,’ has not only become an acceptable substitute for the Temple Mount itself – which is in fact Judaism’s holiest site, but even worse it has become a symbol of appeasement and of weakness.
That’s because while in 1967, when the proud paratroopers took over the Mount defeating the Jordanian Legion, with IDF Chief of Staff Mordechai ‘Motta Gur’ broadcasting the famous words, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” (Har HaBayit BeYadeinu), its hard today to make the case that the Temple Mount remains truly in our hands.
With such limitations applied by our own Israeli police and security forces as to when Jews can ascend to the Mount, with illegal restrictions banning Jewish prayer altogether, with specific individuals being barred from going up, from the daily desecration of the site – whether it’s Arab children playing soccer, or a large section of the South/Eastern quadrant of the Mount essentially serving as a heaping garbage dump, or perhaps worst of all, since Jews are afraid to visit the site, in fear of weekly if not daily rock attacks targeting non-Muslims, how can we say that the Temple Mount is truly in our hands?
This is not the fault of the Waqf – the Jordanian religious authority who administers the site, and has been at the forefront of trying to erase 2000 years of Jewish history through deliberate and illegal building projects and excavations. While all of that is reprehensible, we must look in the mirror in order to place the blame where it belongs.
Israel is ultimately responsible for the Temple Mount. Israel’s highest courts have ruled in favor of a Jewish presence including sprayer on the Mount, but yet it’s Israel itself appeasing the Arabs, trying not to ‘stir the pot,’ which implements the restrictions, and takes away a Jewish right to freedom of expression at our holiest site.
In other words, our leaders our saying, “forget the Mount. Here take the wall below.” I’m sure the Muslims on top are smirking or even laughing heartily when they see a large gathering of Jews below, feeling that it is they who are calling the shots from above.
While the idea has crossed my mind, I don’t think that I would or could ever bring myself to call for a boycott by Jews of the Western Wall until our full rights to the Temple Mount are restored. That being said, the situation as it is where the ‘Wall of Appeasement’ below is ‘good enough’ shouldn’t be allowed to continue.