There is no question whatsoever from both biblical history and archeological artifacts, that well before there were any mosques on the Temple Mount, there had been two Jewish Temples there. And contrary to what some may suggest or think because of the mosques on the mount and because of the unrest by Palestinian or Israeli Arabs, the mount, not the Western Wall, has always been the holiest place in the world for Jews, while it is not the holiest place for Muslims. In fact, for centuries, until a few hundred years ago when it became disallowed, Jewish prayer was performed on the Temple Mount, not at the Western Wall.
Israel liberated East Jerusalem, the ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Temple Mount during the 1967 Six-Day War, reunifying the city, and the decision was made by the then sitting government of Israel to leave control over the mount in the hands of the Waqf, the Islamic religious authority. The naïve Prime Minister at the time and his couldn’t-care-less-about-the-significance-of-the-site-to-the-Jewish-people Defense Minister, Levi Eshkol and Moshe Dayan respectively, thought there would be unfettered access for anyone of any religion to visit and pray on the site, if they just assuaged the defeated Arabs. An excuse was also given that according to “Halacha,” Jewish law, until the Messiah comes, entry by Jews to the area was forbidden anyway, as if secular politicians knew better than Rabbis who were more versed on the law. There are some who say that yes, entry anywhere on the mount is forbidden, but many others say that is not the case, especially for a large part of the plaza.
So how has that worked out? Things have continued to get worse. Jews cannot pray or even appear to be praying on the mount, and access is very limited to non-Muslims. The Waqf has also violated its agreements numerous times, not only to make things more “Islamized” and to incite violence and to intimidate, but with illegal construction, and to do its best to remove and/or destroy any semblance of Jewish history from the plaza. Israel has bent over backward so much so as not to get the Arabs mad, its spine has become a wet noodle. Israeli governments keep giving in to the bullies, and so, the bullies take more and more.
I have been to Har Habayit a number of times, and the last time I was there in 2010, I saw the same as in previous visits. Overflowing trash cans, soccer play (by kids, not an organized game of adults), stray animals defecating and mounds of debris. Granted, the plateau is large and there are many areas, not close to the Al Aqsa mosque or the most recognized symbol of the mount, the Dome of the Rock, which are not covered by stone or paved over, but still, these grounds are supposed to be holy to Islam. And over the years, there have been numerous times that the plaza has been used for rioting, even for rioters to throw stones over the wall to the Western Wall area below, injuring Jewish worshipers. If the Arabs care so much about the site, where is the reverence?
Here is the bewildering and tragic reality of this upside down world. Jews cannot pray at the place where Abraham bound his son Isaac for sacrifice and where Jacob dreamt of a ladder reaching to heaven as God told him, in B’reishit, Genesis 28:13, “… the land upon which you are lying, to you I will give it and to your descendants.” And just as Abraham insisted on paying for a gravesite in Machpelah for his late wife Sarah so there would be no doubt of ownership, King David insisted on purchasing this place as well (Divrei Hayamim Aleph, Chronicles I 21:25), for the future temple that his son Solomon built, and temples after that. In this place, the Ark of the Covenant, covered with a pure gold lid upon which were attached the Cherubim, was placed, and from between the angels’ forward-stretched wings, God’s very presence rested. It was in this place that the priest Matityahu ben Yocḥanan, along with his son Judah Maccabee and his brothers, began the rebellion that liberated the Land of Israel and gave us the holiday of Chanukah.
A repentant Herod remodeled the Second Temple at this place, so magnificent and resplendent, that the Sages of old said, (Talmud Bava Batra 4a), “He who has not seen Herod’s temple, has never seen a truly grand building in his life.” Just over the valley next to this place lies the Mount of Olives cemetery, burial ground from biblical times to the present for the Jewish departed, their bodies interred here so that upon the final redemption, they are as close as possible to the newest temple. And Jews all over the world turn toward this place when they gather for prayer, as they have done for 3,000 years since the days of King Solomon (Melachim Aleph, Kings I 8:44). By contrast, many of another people who claim this holy site for themselves and themselves alone, turn away and toward Mecca, as they desecrate this place in countless ways.
The majority of Muslims may be peaceful and peace-loving. But at the same time, this “Religion of Peace” has spawned ISIS and Boko Haram, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood, the PLO and the PFLP, the Taliban and Iran. Car bombers and suicide bombers, gun-wielding and knife-wielding terrorists, and of late, uncivilized assassins driving cars into people waiting at bus stops. And if that doesn’t work, stabbing people, even young women, to death. A continuous proliferation of Jew-killing methods by Jew-hating thugs. And make no mistake, even the 12 year old boy who throws a Molotov cocktail, or rocks at cars driving at any speed, looking to maim and murder, is no less a terrorist than the butchers of ISIS.
No Jew has been allowed or will be allowed to live in territory that has been given up by Israel to the Arabs. Racist Palestinians, like the Nazis before them, want the land under their control, “Judenrein,” cleansed of Jews. And they want the Temple Mount, Judenrein. And as usual when it comes to unfairness and violence directed at Israel and its citizens, the world is silent. I am not saying there are Jews who may want to live in a Palestinian state, but can you imagine how the world would react were Israel to expel Muslims from its land? Can you imagine what would happen were the Israeli government to forbid Arabs to pray on the Temple Mount or anywhere else in the State of Israel? Perhaps Israel should insist that once a Palestinian state exists, Israeli Arabs, citizens of the State of Israel, should as the Jews, be relocated to an adjacent land. Sounds pretty radical, right? By the way, perhaps as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested, those ungrateful Israeli Arabs who riot, should leave Israel to live in the Palestinian Authority or Gaza. You know they would never do that.
Har Habayit, the Temple Mount, is the place that is the center of the universe for the descendants of Jacob. Israel, mistakenly not establishing unquestionable sovereignty over the mount after the 6-Day War should at least have 50% control in its administration. Anyone and everyone regardless of religious belief must be allowed to pray there, and on an equal basis. Arrangements were made after the ’67 war for Jews and others to pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, a place the Muslims consider holy as well.
A billion tears have been shed by the Jewish people for the place King David chose and bought for his people, and for the city and country within which it lies. Enough bitter tears have fallen. It is about time, only tears of joy stream down the faces of those who turn toward, and forever yearn for, this place, this most hallowed and beloved place.