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Unacceptable provocation

To those for whom the Mount is a cause celebre: Just because you can doesn't mean you should

This is not going to be a popular view among my Religious Zionist friends. But I believe it is Emes. There was an Arab protest (mostly religious Muslims in Jerusalem) on Sukkos as Jews were on their way to the Kotel. Not that things like this haven’t happened before. They have. Sometimes violently. I recall, for example, Muslims on Har HaBayis throwing rocks down onto visitors at the Kotel a while back. I’m sure this type of thing happens more often than is reported (although, in all the many times I have visited the Kotel, it has never happened).

I can’t help thinking that this particular violent behavior by religious Muslims is a direct result of those Religious Zionists who feel they must assert their rights to pray on Har HaBayis (the Temple Mount — where the Beis HaMikdash once stood). They seem to be constantly challenging the Muslims on the mount by going up there to pray. The most extreme example of this was when — not long ago — a devout Religious Zionist Jew active in the so called ‘Har HaBayis Movement’ (Temple Mount Faithful) was practically murdered for going up there and praying.

Everyone was rightly upset that a man was practically killed for practicing his religious beliefs. There was universal condemnation of that from all sectors of Judaism — my own condemnation included.

That said, I do not see the justification for this kind of provocation. Yes, Har HaByis is ours. That is made clear in the Torah. But now is not the time to make those assertions.

First of all, there are parts of Har HaBayis that no one is permitted to set foot upon today because of our presumed state of Tumah (spiritual impurity) that can only be fully cleansed through the ashes of the Parah Adumah (red heifer) and immersion in a mikvah. We have no such ashes today because there has not yet been found a completely red heifer that does not contain more than a single non-red hair and that has not been worked in any way.

Now, it is true that there are some areas of Har HaBayis that do not require such spiritual cleanliness, where technically one is permitted to stand. But most poskim (virtually all the Charedi ones) have said that one should not rely on this area and just stay off of the Temple Mount completely. That has not, however, stopped groups like the Temple Mount Faithful from alighting there.

I’m sure (or at least I hope) that in most cases, it’s about the desire to pray as close to Israel’s holiest site as possible. The problem is that there is another religion in control up there that will not have it. For many reasons. Some of which should be understood — even to those of us who believe that we have the right to be up there.

Imagine for a moment if the situation were reversed. We finally had a Parah Adumah and the Beis HaMikdash was rebuilt.  Somehow the Muslims were in control of the State of Israel and we lived there as second-class citizens (which is how Muslims traditionally treat Jews that live in their countries). But we were now in control of Har HaBayis.

Imagine if a devout Muslim wanted to pray in the Azarah — close to the Kodesh HaKadoshim (Holy of Holies in the Beis HaMikdash), which they too believe is holy. We wouldn’t allow it. If they forced their way up there and prayed close to the Holy of Holies, would that not upset us? It would be an outrage! We would surely be as upset at them as they are now at us.

This of course does not justify the violence. But I hope it at least illustrates why they are so upset by a Jew praying on the Temple Mount. They know we are in charge overall, and that our military might could easily enable us to take over Har HaBayis. They see people alighting in that area who have sworn to destroy their holy mosque and build their own holy house of prayer.  Of course they are going to be upset by that.

Going up there even for religious reasons (especially for those reasons from their perspective) is a major provocation and threat to them! This is not the time to do this. Firstly, because most poskim (rabbinic authorities) don’t approve, and, more importantly, there is no productive end to it. There is no way that we are going to get back Har HaBayis before Moshiach comes. Any attempt to assert our rights there serves only to antagonize the devout Muslims praying up there — which ultimately incites them to be even more violent.

To say they attack us anyway is a poor excuse in my view. One does not pour gasoline on a fire just because there is a fire anyway.

So as much as I believe we have every right to pray up there, I protest against anyone who decides to do it before Moshiach comes. Nothing will be gained except a lot of Jews getting hurt — in some cases seriously. Not to mention the Halachic problems with it. Or a world watching that will see this as a bunch of religious fanatics from an occupying force causing trouble for the poor underdog Palestinians.

For the time being we should be satisfied with what we do have. The Kotel — which is the closest non-controversial point to the Makom HaMkidash. This is the site that is almost universally approved for all Jews to visit and pray. If the Religious Zionist zealots would stop provoking them by going up there, I’m sure that there would not be any protests on Sukkos — protests that are quite scary. Especially for little children.

I therefore support all government efforts to prevent these people from going up there by whatever means necessary.

Is my position on this offensive? Well, if it is, then so too must be the position of at least one Sephardi Rav, Shimon Baadani. He is on the Shas Council of Torah Sages. Here is what he was quoted saying in the Forward about those entering the Temple Mount area:

Do not provoke the nations, even if we are in control here, there is a halakha. I don’t know on whose authority they permit themselves to provoke and cause an armed struggle like is happening now … they are forbidden.”

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.