Yehuda L. Oppenheimer
Writer, Thinker, Tour Guide

“Har Habayit Biyadeinu!” — It Really Is Up to Us

The absurdity of it all apparently has no bounds. Aapparently, according to a news story on this site, it has a reached a point that one is taking their life in their hands by saying the words “Temple Mount” — on the Temple Mount.

I write these words in the afterglow of Chanukah, which should consist of warm evenings in front of the Menorah, armed with dreidels and feasting on latkes, spending quality time with family and friends. But, unfortunately, just under the surface, we are very aware of the tensions that can rip apart the idyllic peaceful moments at any time.

While there is no offcial intafada at the moment, Islamic terror continues worldwide unabated It is only due to the protection of G-d and the unending efforts of our security forces that things have been relatively quiet. But far too often Jerusalem has become a battlefield

בימים ההם בזמן הזה

Our people have been run over at bus stations, stabbed while waiting for rides; our children have been kidnapped and killed, or knifed while shopping in supermarkets, and even butchered while in the midst of their prayers.  In the North and South we have been shot at with thousands of missiles . . . all while there is supposedly a cease fire. And not just in Israel. There are bombings and killings and rapes in London, Paris, Mumbai, Sydney, Istanbul and smaller cities  . . . and on it goes.

And the world – the same world who sees and condemns the brutal horrific killers of ISIS – ignores the fact that ISIS and HAMAS and Hezbollah and Fatah and Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, are actually all the one and the same, differing in name and location only. The governments of Europe, who are now experiencing the violence of these thugs who are on a murder and rape rampage in their cities, ignore all this and find fault only with Israel.  They turn a blind eye to the fact that these same savages, who contaminate our holy Har HaBayit and then hypocritically call us the violent aggressors, want  to eradicate not only the State of Israel but Jews everywhere from the face of the Earth. And yet, they continue to strut around on the Temple Mount as the owners who can have a Jew arrested not only for uttering a silent prayer there, but even for saying the words “Temple Mount”.

Of course, the “Chanukah Gift” that we received this year from Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry, serves only to legitimize them.  The Temple Mount?  Occupied Territory.  Any Israeli claim to the area?  Criminal aggression; violative of International Law under UN Security Council Resolution 2334.

How will we respond to all this? Predictably, those on the left continue to blame Israel for its troubles and international isolation, for not “ending the occupation” and accommodating the “Palestinians” enough. Those on the “extreme” political right say that we need to respond much more firmly against the Arabs and in buiding in Yehuda and Shomron, and adopt an approach that takes no prisoners. Those in the political center, are outraged about what is happening, but are basically clueless about what can be done about it, save trying to heighten defensive security measures.

Of course, the rhetoric we are hearing from the players in the incoming Trump Administration is very heartening. One certainly has reason to hope that Israel’s right to defend herself, and to assert her rights to our ancestral homeland, will be strengthened.   However, if history is any guide, one can not place too much hope in any outside human help, as promising as it may be, as I wrote recently.  I think it is crucial, as proud Jews , to recognize the call of the hour, and to affirm that the Har HaBayit is ours — the Waqf has no ownership rights there.

Perhaps we need to take some lessons from Chanukah with us.

There was a time, about 2,300 years ago, when a few Jews decided enough was enough. It was time to stop playing nice, continuing to avoid conflict with the Syrian Greeks who had (so said the accommodationists) brought so many positive ideas to the world. It was time to stop pretending that the invaders were basically a benevolent group who only sought to bring modernity and culture to the backward Jews of Judea. It was time to see the true agenda and character of the occupiers — that if the Jews did not go along with their religio/cultural diktat they would murder, pillage, rape, and destroy — and face up to the fact they could no longer accept the status quo with these invaders. Trusting in Hashem, they fought back, they ignored all the Hellenists who preached pacifism, conciliation and peace, and succeeded in driving the invaders out; achieving peace for some generations.

For too many in Israel (and us who have strong opinions from afar), the realization that we are at war – whether we like it or not – has not yet taken hold. Too many harbor illusions that the present state of affairs of a stalemate and of containment can continue, and that if we avoid unduly provoking and annoying the Arabs we will somehow get through this. Too many accept, for instance, that the proximate cause of the slaughter in Har Nof was because Jewshad been attempting to pray on the Har HaBayit (Temple Mount), and if we would just “stay off the Har HaBayit”, – and lend credence to the Arab ranting that our presence there “contaminates” the “Holy Arab soil” – things would improve. If only Jews would accept that the Har HaBayit is forbidden to us for now, and that it is proper that the Waqf be granted full sovereign rights there, the threat of a “Third Intafada”, would end and peaceful co-existence would be restored.

Clearly there are strong differences of opinion as to the Halachic propriety of entering the Har HaBayit. The near uniform Halachic consensus was, and remains, that the large Har HaBayit Plaza contains both sacred areas that were part of the original Temple compound and thus – as long as we do not have the Parah Adumah to achieve the requisite level of Taharah (Ritual Purity) – are off limits to Jews, and also contains areas that were never within the Temple compound and therefore have no Halachic bar against entering them.

The Halachic dispute is between those, on the one hand, who say that the results of modern research, and an incomparably greater familiarity with the terrain than in years past, allow us to determine exactly which are the forbidden areas and thus permit us to enter in the permitted areas.  Others, on the other hand, subscribe to the age old view (formulated largely in the Diaspora far from any access to determining the facts on the ground) that misafek (because of doubt) we must consider the entire area forbidden. Far be it for me to offer my own opinion on these sacred matters.

An additional reason to stay away from the Har HaBayit is a special poignancy in knowing that despite the amazing gift that Hashem has given us in our time of the State of Israel and the incredible Divine Kindness that is evident in the fantastic rebuilding that has occurred there over the past century . . . that the gift is still incomplete.

For years my practice was to go to Har Hatzofim (Mt Scopus) on Tisha B’Av, and from that vantage point to recite Lamentations and Kinot, while observing “Mt Zion that is barren – where [human] foxes are walking about”. It was from that vantage point that despite enjoying an incredibly vibrant Jewish life in Yerushalayim, I was able to fully feel the words of the Festive Mussaf  “We have been distanced from your land, and cannot go up and be seen and prostrate ourselves before you . . . “ Accordingly, many feel that G-d has not yet signalled that the time is ripe for us to visit, and we must accept His will.

And yet.

Although for the religious or sentimental reasons stated most poskim hold that one should refrain from going up on any part of the Har HaBayit, it should be clear that this is OUR choice. The ONLY reason that we ought to refrain from going up is because WE have decided not to go there, for our own reasons; NOT because of what the Waqf, or the murderous, crocodile tear Islamic fanatics say. They must be told, in no uncertain terms, that Jews have absolute, inalienable, and permanent ownership over that place that is and was sacred to us, thousands of years before Mohamed supposedly (it is not even agreed upon within Islamic doctrine) ascended to wherever he went after leaving this life from there. It is OUR Temple Mount (which they deny), not theirs. And if Jews, following the Halachic authorities who permit prayer there, wish to exercise their rights, they must absolutely be allowed to do so.

I heard a great Rav in Israel once say that General Motta Gur was a prophet, though he did not know it. In the heat of the Six Day War, when the IDF successfully, and unexpectedly, captured the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem, the whole world heard the General exclaim over the radio “Har HaBayit Biyadeinu!!!  HarHaBayit Biyadeinu!!!” The Temple Mount is in our Hands!!!. Motta Gur meant that we had won the battle and restored Jewish sovereignty to its rightful position for the first time in 2,000 years. Most unfortunately, Moshe Dayan, despite the overwhelming evidence of the destruction and debasement of every Jewish synagogue and Holy site in the Old city that had been captured in 1948, at a time when Israel could have been fully justified in dynamiting the mosques on the Har HaBayit in return, instead granted full legal rights to the Waqf to have say over everything in that compound. What an unforgivably tragic decision!!! What Dayan did not realize was that the Har HaBayit was now truly Biyadeinu…in our hands, to do with as WE, not them, decide.

Nevertheless, the Har HaBayit is still Biyadeinu. It is in our hands, through our actions, that its fate will be ultimately decided. Certainly, in our actions of Torah, Tefillah, Teshuvah, and Mitzvos, to allow us to have the zechut (merit) in the eyes of G-d to fully restore us to its sovereignty.

But it is also Biyadeinu, in our actions as a proud Nation recognizing that we are not any longer supposed to take the stance that we did the thousands of years of Galut, and meekly submit to the will of the Nations around us. That, Baruch Hashem, with the restoration of our People to Our Land, a new era has begun in which we will no longer tolerate their anti-semitism, and we will proudly stand up for our rights and our security, and our Holy Places. (I have begun a series of articles on this crucial topic, which I hope will pique your interest).

This article is long enough already, I will please G-d write a follow-up about what our present relationship with the nations of the world ought to be, in general, post 1948. But clearly it is time that we all acknowledge publicly that which the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people today know to be true – a new era has begun. When we are attacked, we are to react not as the helpless victims of old who had no strength or rights of our own, but as a proud Nation at War, who will not tolerate the violence of those who seek to harm them.

We, too, in America have a role to play. We have to know that there is a war going on, and call it as such. We must support the new  American Administration in making sure that Israel not be forced into any concessions to those who will not even recognize her right to exist. We must speak up when and where we can to defend the rights of Jews – not only for self defense, but to act as a nation at war – and give no quarter to our evil enemies. And most of all, we mustpray to G-d that once again he give us תשועה גדולה ופורקן a great salvation and redemption, as the many are given over to the hands of the few , and the evildoers into the hands of the righteous.

Let us think — just for a moment — about the concluding verse of Maoz Tzur that we all sang so often this week,. presumably while thinking more about latkes or presents than the meaning of the words we were mouthing:

חשוף זרוע קדשך

Uncover Your holy arm [power]

and hasten the End – [to bring] salvation

Avenge Your servants’ blood from the wicked nation.

For the triumph is too long delayed for us,

and there is no end to days of evil,

Repel Edom into the nethermost shadow

and establish for us the seven shepherds

הקם לנו רועה שבעה

May we have only the warmth and light of Chanukah continue to shine for us, and the final victory over all who wish us harm, when we can have a Chanukas HaBayis, a rededication of the Holy Temple, speedily in our days.

About the Author
Rabbi Oppenheimer, Esq has had a varied career as an Engineer, Attorney, and Rav at Congregations both on the East and West Coast of the United States. After coming on Aliyah in 2017, he divides his time between teaching, writing, and showing Israel to visitors as a licensed Tour Guide. All this gives him a unique perspective on different sides of the Orthodox world.
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