On Sunday afternoon, I entered the Old City of Jerusalem through the Dung Gate and walked towards the Western Wall. After passing through the security check and reaching the Western Wall Plaza, I saw a group of Muslim tourists walking about freely, talking, and taking pictures.
Then I found myself almost simultaneously thinking the following thoughts: First, could I imagine one day seeing Jews being allowed to walk around freely on Temple Mount, given that mere moments before I had passed the long line filled with non-Muslims hoping to be allowed to go up the wooden stairway leading to the Mughrabi Gate at the Temple Mount. There, non-Muslims are subject to strict restrictions concerning dress and prayer or other forms of religious expression by the Jerusalem Waqf, the Islamic authority posessing jurisdiction over the Temple Mount.
Secondly, I thought about the verse in Isaiah 56:7:
“I will bring them to My sacred mount And let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices Shall be welcome on My altar; For My House shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples.”
Israel allows freedom of religion and access to people of all religions and beliefs to visit Jewish places of worship. This strongly juxtaposes with the current conditions at the Temple Mount.
While there continues to be a public and legal debate about the state and nature of non-Orthodox Jewish worship at the Western Wall, hopefully this holy place will continue to embody the spirit of being “a house of prayer for all peoples.”