Joshua, the successor of Moses, led the Israelites to the Promised Land. He had a very clear mission; to conquer the Land and divide it between the 12 tribes. He had help from above, every step of the way. The first city to conquer was Jericho, but it was surrounded by high walls. It seemed like mission-impossible. Joshua was told by God to walk around the city with all the armed men for seven days, carrying the ark and blowing in trumpets. On the seventh day the walls fell down to the ground and they could easily conquer Jericho. Some archeologists suggest that when the Jewish people needed the walls to fall, there was actually a very well-timed earthquake.
There is a Jewish wedding tradition very much reminding of Joshua’s seven circuits. The bride circles seven times around the groom under the Chuppa (wedding canopy) to break down any possible barriers and walls still between the couple. She is creating a space, a new world for them together. Jeremiah 31;22 “A woman shall surround a man.”
We will walk another kind of walk around the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem this Saturday night. Tisha B’Av begins, we mourn the destruction of the two temples on this day. It will be dark outside when we encircle the gates of the city, but we can see the shades of Jerusalem’s 3000 years of history. Even the walls and the gates have a story to tell. We walk on at the Zion gate where Israeli paratroopers entered in 1967 to liberate the Temple Mount. There are still bullet holes on the stones to prove it. We will walk from the Lion Gate. The Lion is the symbol of Jerusalem. It faces the Kedron valley with the Tomb of Absalom. On the South side of the Temple Mount we can see the worn-out stairs, leading up to the Temple that once stood there, used by the ancient Jewish pilgrims. We will also walk on top of the most interesting gate, the double arched Shaar HaRahamim/the Gate of Mercy, also called the Golden gate. It is the oldest gate. Based on archeological finds at the base, stones were found from the time of the prophet Nehemiah. It faces East, the direction of the rising sun, also the direction the Jewish Temple faced. According to Jewish tradition Messiah will enter through this gate. When the Muslims learned about this, they sealed it off with large blocks in the year 1541 to prevent the Jewish Messiah from coming. Interestingly Ezekiel prophesized that this Eastern gate would be shut and nobody can enter by it. It will be closed until “the Prince”, the Messiah will enter through it.
We will walk around the wall, but we don’t want the walls to fall, like the walls in Jericho. It is all about the Temple Mount. Strangers are in our home. It does not matter that Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti, decided in 1930 it would be the third holiest site in Islam. Amin, a confidante of Adolf Hitler, was afraid of the arriving Jewish refugees and therefore started the false claim. He was an uncle to Yasser Arafat and he of course continued this falsehood from 1967 onwards.
Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute says “The Talmud and Midrash presents a detailed description of each stage of the destruction of the Temple: The day the Temple was destroyed was the Ninth of Av. It was the conclusion of the Sabbath, and the end of the seven year cycle. It was during the time of the priestly shift of Yehoyiriv. The priests and Levites stood on the platform and continued to sing…and did not cease until the enemy entered and subdued them. When the High Priest saw that the Holy Temple was in flames, he climbed up on the roof of the Sanctuary together with groups of young priests. They held the keys to the Temple in their hands and spoke before the Holy One, Blessed be He “Master of the Universe! It appears that we were not worthy of being trusted officers for you – take back the key to Your House! And with that, they threw the keys upwards. The image of a hand appeared in the heavens and took them…”
Our peaceful presence, tens of thousands of people walking the yearly walk around the walls of Jerusalem, is a testimony what the Temple Mount means to the Jewish people. When it’s time and God wills it, the new Temple will be right here. He has the keys to the sanctuary. Strangers are in our home, but the real owners will take possession of the mountain in the end. With our feet and entire beings we want a holy Temple to be built here again, the Third and final Temple. Like a bride in love, we circle the groom.