Rosh Hodesh Av — month of Destruction and Redemption — at the Holy Temple Mount in the Center of the World — Jerusalem!
Following my monthly Rosh Hodesh support prayers for women’s right to meaningful spirituality at the Western Wall (Kotel) (my earlier blog Partnership and Pluralism), I realized that we are all likewise denied our right to pray in our conscience in a much more important place Judaism’s Holiest site — the Temple Mount – which is really much more central than the Kotel — the outer retaining wall built by Herod.
My first (and only other) visit was on Tisha Be’Av afternoon 1978, not with any nationalist religious extremist group … rather the American Conservative United Synagogue Youth – USY Israel Pilgrimage. It was the second to last day of my first visit to Israel and a summer and a particular day that redefined me … 10 years later led to my aliyah. I have a beautiful picture (from then) of me standing next to the “Even Shtia” the very rock Abraham offered up Isaac (Akeida).
Realizing that we may have an incredibly small window to visit, due to the current tensions … I quickly jumped on the opportunity and ascended the Mughrabi Bridge overlooking the the Kotel Plaza. In a country that should stand for religious pluralism and freedom, Muslims can access the Mount from any gate, whereas non-Muslims (Jews and other visitors) can only use this flimsy wooden bridge that repeatedly needs repairs every time Jerusalem gets more than a dusting of snow..
We all were made to wait an hour at the Mughrabi Bridge for a large enough group of Jews/Israeli assembled for police escort to herd us (literally) up and around the Mount. I know the situation may be artificial because of the Muslim boycott of the Mount.
My visit to the Temple Mount on Monday was a real privilege! I took off my shoes and ascended barefoot out of respect for G-d’s Holy Mountain.
The mountain is still full of trees and open spaces.
Yet it was humiliating that I could not be left alone to meditate in peace. It is not the fault for these young police guards, who are the age of my own children. They are following orders from the political echelon and really doing their best to protect everyone and keep things calm.
There is a beautiful story of our Temple being built on a place of everlasting freely given kindness between 2 brothers (one childless) who unselfishly shared with each other. In the times of the Temple 100s of thousands bowed and there was still enough room for all comfortably. Sacred spaces are given to us all by G-d. On the eve of Tisha Be’Av I realize that, when we don’t pay due to G-d’s wish, that we share those sacred spaces and love the people who share our love and passion for them … we lose them in a Pillar of Fire not unlike the one that led us out of slavery in Egypt!
Please watch my 5 minute clip of my re-visit to the Temple Mount. I tagged along a little with a leader of a group but also did my best to find my own quiet space (to the extent the escorts allowed.
In our Talmud we learn that G-d found no way to bless the nation of Israel other than peace. Peace means to start loving each other baselessly.
As we approach Tisha Be’Av — anniversary of destruction of that dream, I am praying for Peace and Love between us, and that we soon can all join and ascend to a mountain that becomes a source of Peace and Love, a true:
House Of Prayer for All Nations Beit Tefila Lekol Ha’amim
כִּ֣י בֵיתִ֔י בֵּית־תְּפִלָּ֥ה יִקָּרֵ֖א לְכָל־הָעַמִּֽים