Monday, May 10, 2021

Is it Truly in Our Hands?

Yom Yerushalayin -Violence on the Temple Mount (Times of Israel)
‘Har Habayit B’Yadenu!’ The Temple Mount is  in our hands. So was the joyful cry of the late Lieutenant General Motta Gur as he led the IDF brigade that successfully recaptured it back in 1967. 

The Temple Mount is where the Beis Hamkidash once stood. This is the holiest site in Judaism. This is where the Shechina – God’s presence on this earth rested. This is where the holy of holies was located… wherein the holy ark of the covenant lay in its miraculous and glorious splendor. Where only Kohen Gadol was allowed to enter - and only on Yom Kippur once a year. On pain of death by the hands of Heaven by anyone else or even by him at any other time. 

This is where the 3rd Beis Hamkidash will be built. Needless to say, the day General Gur exclaimed those words, is a day we should all celebrate. It was truly one of the greatest milestones of our long journey in the diaspora. Today is Yom Yerushalayim, the anniversary of that event. It is a day where many of us do not say  Tachanun (as is the custom on Jewish holidays). In many locations Hallel is also recited. 

But the reality is somewhat different. It is true that the Jewish people are technically now in possession of this most holy of locations. But one would be hard pressed to see that in any real sense of the word. The sad reality is that Muslims are in control. They consider that place holy too for different reasons. The ‘Dome of the Rock’ mosque has been there for hundreds of years and has been faithfully attended daily in prayer by many generations of Muslims from all over the world. They consider it theirs despite the fact that we consider ours and have taken control of the area militarily. Their clerics have been given full autonomy there by the Israeli government to the exclusion of any Jewish worshippers. 

This has more or less been the case ever since we regained control after 2000 years of foreign control. Which kind of puts a damper on the celebration. At the same time we are not in a position Halachicly to enter that area freely in our current state of Tumah - spiritual impurity. A state that can only be rectified through the Para Aduma (red heifer) through a complex spiritual cleansing procedure described in detail by the Torah. Which for reasons beyond the scope of this post is currently unavailable to us. 

Although  there are certain areas of the Temple Mount that are technically permitted for us to tread on today in our current state of Tumah, most Poskim forbid going up there altogether for fear of crossing a line into an area not permited to us in that state.

This sad state of affairs nevertheless seemed to be the defatco solution to prevent clashes between fervent Jews who wish to pray in the holiest of places - and Arabs who feel the same way and resent our intrusion anywhere up there. 

The problem is that for many religious Zionist Jews, the desire to pray in that holy place is so strong that they go up there anyway relying on their own Poskim who permit it in those limited areas. And that in my view is a prescription for violent conflict.  It is hard to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim when we see violence up there between Jews and Arabs.

But I can’t help thinking that if those religious Zionists would just abide by the ruling of the vast majority of Poskim, none of this would be happening on the Temple Mount

No one wants to restore the Beis Hamikdash in all its resplendent glory more than I do. But we aren’t there yet. Asserting ourselves now in this way just to make the point is in my view a bad idea… one that endangers not only those attempting to do it, but every Jew living there. And it doesn’t make the Biden administration too happy either. Although I don’t believe it endangers the American Israeli relationship, Israel ought not be doing things to upset its closest and most powerful  ally.. 

Arabs are now rioting all over the place there. Including the Temple Mount. It’s true there are other reasons for that, but that it spread to the Temple Mount is surely because of past assertions of that right against the advice of most religious authorities. Thankfully,  the police have blocked them from going up there today because of all the violence taking place in Jerusalem. But the police are there and violence is happening.

I know this is not a popular view with religious Zionists. They reject that there is anything wrong with going up there and resent my saying there is. They probably see my view as being anti Jewish - anti Torah even! They instead feel that it is imperative to show the Arabs who’s boss. And they are going to do what is necessary to make sure the Arabs know that - regardless of the consequences. But I think their religious fervor blinds them to the reality that their bravado does  more harm than good. 

How ironic that on the day we should be celebrating the return of the Temple Mount we are witnessing violent clashes between Arabs and the Israeli police in that very place. Hard to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim that way.

Update: Hamas has just fired rockets at Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh. Regardless of what is happening on the Temple Mount - or who is to blame for what - Israel must respond. I believe that they will in a unified way. To quote Defense Minister Benny Ganz  "Palestinian terrorism must be fought with an iron first." Could not agree more!