For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
The Temple Mount and us
08 July '12..
In the summer of 1944, four years before the establishment of the state, Zionist leader Berl Katznelson published a mythological article in the daily Davar titled "Destruction and Ignorance." Katznelson, the spiritual leader of the Labor movement was shocked after hearing that on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, members of Labor's "Immigrant Camp" youth movement conducted a day of summer recreation. Katznelson expressed his anguish over the event and wrote "a creative and productive generation does not throw generations of heritage into the waste bin. There are those who will scavenge through outdated junk, discover long-forgotten items, cleanse them of their rust and resurrect an ancient tradition that has the power to rejuvenate the soul of a generation."
Today, the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz, commemorates the day the walls around Jerusalem were breached, three weeks before the Second Great Temple was destroyed by the Romans on the ninth day of Av. On this day, we have not heard the reaction of any leader, political or religious, to images published last week showing the goings-on at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The images, which were published by Makor Rishon and described in an Israel Hayom opinion piece, reveal the base of a large scaffold placed on top of the Foundation Stone, which lies at the center of the Dome of the Rock. The top of the scaffold reached the ceiling of the golden dome, which has been under renovation by Muslims for the past few months.
The picture is worth a thousand words — scaffolds on top of the Foundation Stone! According to Jewish tradition, the world was created around this stone, which is believed to be the location of the Holy of Holies within the Temple. Jewish tradition informs us that the ark of the covenant resided in the Holy of Holies. Imagine a similar photo showing the same scene with the Kaaba in Mecca, which Muslims believe descended from heaven and is the only remnant left of the original structure, or the Stone of Unction at the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which Christians believe was the spot upon which the body of Jesus was anointed. Think of the volcanic eruption that would have followed. But ironically, the photographs of the Temple Mount caused less pain than the deafening silence in their wake. And this silence, unfortunately, is symptomatic.
Forty-five years after Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were liberated, a majority of the Jewish population is still disconnected from the Mount, and that which is far from the eye is far from the heart. Jews have adopted the Western Wall as a replacement for the Mount. After the government and most Halachic (Jewish legal) authorities (the former for political reasons, the latter for religious reasons) prohibited Jews from praying on the Mount, the Western Wall, which derives its holiness from its proximity to the Holy of Holies, became the primary holy site for Jews.
The belief is a distortion and denial of the truth, but, most importantly, as Katznelson said, it is a symptom of detachment. We do not need to pray at the Temple Mount; we can make do with visiting the site. But even visits to the site by Jews have become rare and not only the police, who have limited the number of visits and the amount of time for each visit, are responsible for that. The Jewish public, religious and secular alike, has forsaken the site and this reality has turned its history and antiquities into a political bargaining chip, a negotiation, a carrot and stick approach used by police when dealing with the waqf, the Muslim authority charged with maintaining the site.
With all due respect to the Western Wall, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb — sites that are also justifiably revered — the top Jewish heritage site in Israel is the Temple Mount. In relation to this holy site, however, since 1967, Jews have behaved like absentee landlords.
On one occasion, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (also known as the "Kotzker Rebbe") wept bitterly before his followers as he told them that he was guilty of great arrogance. When he was ten years old, the rabbi said, after his home and all of his family's possessions went up in flames, he tried to console his mother and promised her that when he grew up he would begin writing a new family genealogy document in place of the one lost in the flames. He said he meant that the new genealogy would begin with himself. Many Jews relate to the Temple Mount the same way young Menachem Mendel related to his family's genealogy. They believe we can skip over the Temple Mount and rewrite the Jewish people's genealogy without it. This is a grave mistake.
The photos of scaffolds on the Foundation Stone and other tragic photos of the goings-on at the site over the years, would not have existed if Jews had taken an interest in the Mount, not for provocation or protest, but as a true project grounded in our national roots, including awareness tours of the site and studies of ancient maps and historical accounts in the company of archeologists, historians, rabbis, military commanders, educators and academic leaders. The purpose of the tours would be to remind us where the Jewish people's genealogical documents lie in Jerusalem.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"