It was the unforgettable, glorious day in June 1967, when the first Jewish army since the revolt against Rome broke through the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.Jewish soldiers, the first Jews to step foot in the Old City for 19 years, raced through Lions Gate toward the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount. The clarion call of Commander Motta Gur: “The Temple Mount is in our hands! The Temple Mount is in our hands!” has been preserved in the annals of history. There was not a Jewish heart that did not beat with a sense of the Divine, historic moment that they were witnessing.
However since those glorious days of 1967, the sad reality is that the Temple Mount is not in our hands. Any person who ascends the Mount today cannot help but be struck by the blatant and ongoing religious discrimination against non-Muslims, Jews and Christians alike in that holy place. This week alone for three consecutive days the Temple Mount has been closed to all Non-Muslim worshipers (Arutz Sheva). Before a Jew is allowed on the Mount, they are searched for “offensive items” i.e. anything of Jewish religious significance and it is considered a crime for a Jew or Christian to pray on the Mount. The crime of prayer is viewed so severely that every group of Jews who ascend the Mount, are accompanied by a police officer to make sure that they do not engage is this criminal behavior.
The ongoing discrimination against Non-Muslims on the Mount as well as the belief that the Temple Mount is exclusively a Muslim holy site, is not only a mockery of the basic principles of a democratic society but also a gross distortion of the historical facts.
In Jewish tradition, the Temple Mount is where the binding of Isaac took place, where Jacob dreamed about the angels,and where the two Temples stood for a combined period of 830 years. The Temples were so much more than just a building; they represented the lofty and noble idea of equality and brotherhood between all of humanity.As the verse in Isaiah so beautifully states, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7) From the day of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. until today, Jews around the world have faced Jerusalem in prayer to never forget their integral connection to that holy site and to try to fulfill the message that it represented. To think that in the year 2013 in the State of Israel, Jews would be denied entry and their religious freedoms curtailed at this special place just because they are Jews is a thought too painful to imagine.
In addition to the historical injustice, the above status quo is a complete mockery of the rule of law. According to the Protection of Holy Places Law which was passed in 1967, “The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places.” (knesset.gov.il) In addition the Law states: “Whosoever does anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.” (knesset.gov.il)
How can it be that a Non-Muslim can still be denied access to this holy site just because of their beliefs, contrary to an explicit law stating the contrary? When the Women of the Wall are denied the possibility of holding a service in the Western Wall Plaza, the media and politicians race to decry the injustice and the religious discrimination of the situation. Why then regarding the constant religious discrimination against Non-Muslims on the Temple mount, is the political and media outcry deafening in its silence? What is so problematic with trying to implement the vision of the prophets of equality and brotherhood for all humanity? Why does the democratic government of the State of Israel refuse to make the Temple Mount “a house of prayer for all peoples”?