...Yes, there were the expected criers, yelling Allahu akbar as we passed. There were strangers and neighbors, friends and foes, but none of it mattered because I had arrived and I stood in the sun wondering why I had not always been there. I asked my guide why he kept coming and he told me it was to keep the dream alive. I knew what he meant, immediately, and as we walked up the steps I also knew what had broken my heart in that session many weeks earlier.
11 February '15..
I have a dream
"And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established at the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all of the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come. And let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. And he will teach us of his ways, and we shall walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
Something shifted in me this past October, after learning about the assassination attempt on Rabbi Yehuda Glick. The Temple Mount had represented an ache in my heart, but stayed there, as elusive as a dream. Every time I visited the Western Wall, I felt sadness and loss, knowing that I was so close, yet so far away, but somehow I had accepted the status quo and settled for this state of silent complacency.
Then someone drove up on a motorcycle and tried cutting down a man who had kept the dream alive for all of us, and I knew in my heart that this could not stand.
A few months later, I went to the Limmud conference in England to give lectures and to learn. Between planning my own sessions and giving them, I went to listen to a British Orthodox rabbi talk about Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. I knew beforehand it was a liberal crowd, and perhaps I should have stayed away. I didn't, however, and 45 minutes later I found my stomach turning.
In the middle of the lecture, the rabbi showed a short clip of Glick speaking about our right to pray on the Temple Mount, and why the withholding of those rights should have consequences. The audience murmured, and as the video faded to black, the rabbi asked them, "What is it he is really saying?"
In my opinion, Glick is to the Jewish world what Martin Luther King Jr. was to the U.S. civil rights movement. Glick is putting the Temple Mount in the context where it belongs: as a human rights issue, making the injustice of it all so blatantly clear. Much like Dr. King in his day, Glick is being criticized for challenging what is now the status quo and putting the issue on the top of the agenda, and this critique comes from the police, politicians and religious leaders alike.
But as I sat there, what I heard was a predominantly Jewish audience call Glick a troublemaker, an inciter, guilty of causing a third intifada. I felt like I was losing my footing. I was heartbroken, but I couldn't really pinpoint why.
I ended up arguing with the rabbi after the session, louder and more angrily than I had ever expected. What I felt was betrayal, disappointment and rage. Within me the decision was forming, slowly; I have to ascend the mountain. I have to find out for myself.
As the days drew closer, I felt the trepidation, swinging like a pendulum inside of me. I had read about the violence, the riots and the threats and I feared that I would not be able to reach the places I wanted to inhabit. Not merely physically, but more importantly, spiritually.
I met my guide by the Western Wall plaza one early Sunday morning, and within minutes we were there, at the place I had painted pictures of in my mind. I'm not sure what I had expected, but I know that was not what I saw. Yes, there were the expected criers, yelling Allahu akbar as we passed. There were strangers and neighbors, friends and foes, but none of it mattered because I had arrived and I stood in the sun wondering why I had not always been there.
I asked my guide why he kept coming and he told me it was to keep the dream alive. I knew what he meant, immediately, and as we walked up the steps I also knew what had broken my heart in that session many weeks earlier.
The voices I heard in that room had given up on the dream. The rabbi, the audience, all the people calling to indict the man whose blood was spilled for holding on to a dream we cried out for over centuries -- they had resigned to living in yesterday whereas my soul cried out for tomorrow.
They say that the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. What I felt before I went up on the Temple Mount, the fear that dwelled in me, it was the dream being silenced by the criers on the mountain. That is terror, at its core, to make fear so prevalent that we end up thinking that we chose to stay away.
I did not know until I got there how right it was to go. But I know now, and I will keep returning, until the dream becomes reality, speedily and in our days.
In the immortal words of Dr. King, "We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a political adviser, activist and writer on the Middle East, religious affairs and global anti-Semitism.
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