Friday, May 22, 2009

Yom Yerushalyim and the Future of Jerusalem

Har Habayit Beyadenu.

For those of us old enough to remember - who can ever forget that heady day forty two years ago when those words were uttered by then Israeli General Mota Gur as he re-captured Har HaBayis – the Temple Mount.

That was one of the most inspiring moments of my life. Since 1948 up until that very moment Israel existed as a state without Har HaBayis – without the Kotel.

The Kotel was not accessible to any Jew since Israel was declared a State and the Arabs went to war with us. The holiest place in all of Judaism was closed off to us. But in one shining moment, God smiled upon His people and allowed the Israeli Army to take it back.

I will never forget that day. It was a moment in time when being a Jew meant something to everyone. Even secular Jews who were interested only in assimilating took pride that day. A new day for Jews had dawned in the world.

No longer were we seen as sheep to the slaughter – the completely unfair image of Jews created during the holocaust. We were seen in a new light as conquering heroes - winning a war against enemies who threatened to annihilate us. The new found image of a hero was that of the young Israeli soldier. The underdog Israelis proved to an admiring world how ingenious and brave they were by winning a war in 6 days against great odds.

This event changed everything for the Jewish people – especially secular Jews. Almost instantly Jews trying to hide their Judaism in a melting pot society went from that - to ethnic pride.

This is when outreach exploded. Formerly indifferent secular Jews were now taking pride in their Judaism and were trying to learn more about it. Jewish outreach organizations began to flourish. A lot of people became Frum because of a war which resulted in taking back the Temple Mount.

For this reason and so much more I celebrate Yom Yerushalyim today. Today is the anniversary of the six day war. I do as my Rebbe did. I did not say Tachanun yesterday at Mincha nor this morning at Shachris.

But as much as it pains me to say it Har HaBayis is not in our hands. Not really. It is in the hands of the grand Mufti of Jerusalem. True – it is technically in Israel's jurisdiction. But Jews are not in charge. On the very location where most Poskim say the Mizbeach stood, there is a Muslim mosque. It is protected by the Israeli government. Muslims are allowed to worship there freely.

Jews must stay away even if there were no mosque. We cannot Halachicly go to that area of the Temple mount. We are all in a presumptive state of spiritual impurity that can only be removed with the ashes of the red heifer (Parah Adumah) – which we do not have today.

It is the hope of every religious Jew that this will change very soon – with the advent of Moshaich. But as of right now, things seem to be going in another direction – a direction that no one would have dreamed of back in 1967.

Which brings up an entirely different subject and takes any euphoria I ever had about the 6 day war out of me. On this day of Yom Yerushalyim pressure from Israel’s closest ally, the United States, is being brought on Israel to make peace with Palestinians via a two state solution.

The fact is that Israel already played its hand here. It already told the Arabs that they were willing to divide Jerusalem – giving them formal control over the old city where most of them live. And of course it is in the old city that Har HaBayis is located.

I am sorry to inform all those who think otherwise - if there is ever any peace deal reached with Palestinians, Israel will end up with an Oslo type agreement. It may not be exactly Oslo. But it will be a version of it. Of course we are a long way off from any peace deal. Palestinians have thus far shot themselves in the foot every time they had an opportunity to create their own state.

Who knows if they will ever be able to take the leap to true peace with us. As long as there is a Hamas and radical Islam - with an Iran lurking in the background - we have nothing to fear. Israel cannot afford to concede an inch under these circumstances. But if that dynamic ever changes - there will be two states. Israel and Palestine. Like it or not. Har Habyis will be in the Palestine – probably until Moshiach arrives. This does not mean that Jews will not be able to Daven at the Kotel. That was already agreed to by the Arabs at Oslo. But Har HaByis will not be Beyadenu.

This is unfortunately the reality. There are those who simply refuse to acknowledge it. But I have not seen any realistic alternative ideas that would change the dynamic being pursued by Israel’s critical ally. The United States government- both Republicans and Democrats - fully supports a two state solution. We have no choice but to face reality here. Because this is an ally that Israel cannot exist without.

But... for the time being Hamas and friends will do their best to destroy any chances of peace.

So for those who reject the idea of any part of Israel going to the Arabs, especially Jerusalem, don’t worry. Hamas and friends will see to it that it won't happen.