Earlier this week, Israeli Jews marked Tisha B'Av, the fast commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Over 100,000 came to the Western Wall, and more than 1,000 Jews ascended the Temple Mount, the latter being a new record in these times.
But, in accordance with the Muslim-imposed status quo, those Jewish visitors were forbidden to pray at Judaism's holiest site.
The following is an account from Israel Today columnist Tsvi Sadan about his recent visit to the Temple Mount. It was first published in the June edition or our magazine:
I last visited the Temple Mount some 40 years ago, and even then it was as a tourist. So, I’m hardly qualified to address this topic, but I feel the need to, nevertheless.
My recent visit to the Temple Mount began with an extensive security check and we were accompanied the entire time by a police escort. These measures were not for our safety, but rather to ensure we didn’t make even the slightest religious (Jewish) gesture.
Foreign tourists strolled about freely, while we Israelis were tightly surrounded by police officers, one for every Jew.
We were allowed to move only as a group, and had to follow a specified route. Deviating was forbidden, and we were being photographed the entire time. I wondered out loud if these policemen were there to protect us, or from us. Most were either Druze or Muslims, and had difficulty understanding my nuanced Hebrew.
The Temple Mount is open to Jews for only a short period of time each day, and we were careful not to enter areas forbidden by Jewish laws of purity. Muslim families, meanwhile, were picnicking wherever they pleased while their children played soccer. They could come and go unhindered 24 hours a day through eight different gates. Jews can enter the Mount through only one, which is closed most of the time.
As we arrived on the eastern side of the Mount, our Orthodox Jewish guide, Moshe, came to a halt opposite the place where the Temple’s doors once stood. He prayed silently, in his heart, careful not to move his lips, lest the vigilant police officers forcibly remove him from the holy site and possibly place him under arrest.
As we moved on, a policeman asked one of two group members not wearing a kippa why he had joined a group of religious Jews. "You are secular!" he exclaimed. "Next time enter the line of tourists." He had no clue about the yearning of the Jewish soul.
Make no mistake. The Temple Mount is in our hands, but any Jew making a religious gesture will be punished to the full extent of
the law. The State of Israel exercises sovereignty over the Temple Mount, but it is a timid sovereignty driven by fear that any expression of Jewish control would set off this "powder keg."
And so Israel tiptoes around the Temple Mount, embittering the lives of Jewish activists, while being careful not to ruffle a single feather among Muslim provocateurs.
It is a convoluted sovereignty applied in self-deception that is now crumbling under its own lies. It is a sovereignty that knows nothing of the yearning of the Jewish soul.
This account was first published in the June 2017 issue of Israel Today Magazine.