The Dark Side of Jerusalem Day: Magnifying the Kotel and Minimizing the Temple Mount

The Six Day War of June 1967 was remarkable in many ways, but it also led to shameful disappointments.

  • The Victory of War. Vastly outnumbered in people and armory, the Israeli army nevertheless triumphed over the surrounding Arab Muslim countries which sought to destroy the Jewish State.
  • Victory of Right. While Israel fought a preemptive battle against Egypt and Syria, making its argument of self-defense slightly tenuous, the battle against Jordan was 100% defensive, and therefore the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” is wholly irrelevant to Israel’s retaking of eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria which were an integral part of the Palestine Mandate and rightfully “reconstituting their national home in that country.
  • Victory of Rights. The Arab Muslims of Jordan ethnically cleansed the Jews from eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank and forbade Jews from visiting or praying in Jerusalem from 1949-1967, while the broader Muslim world under the Ottomans had banned Jews from entering or praying at the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron for centuries. That ended in June 1967, as Jews were once again able to access their holiest and second holiest locations.

The victories were incredible and continue to be celebrated around the world in Jerusalem Day celebrations, highlighting the reunification of the city and Jewish control of their holiest city.

However, the Jewish generals and leaders of 1967 took two actions immediately after the victory which have led to a falsification of history and belief.

  • Giving Control of the Temple Mount to the Waqf. In an effort to end the war and keep the broader Muslim world from descending upon Israel, the Israeli government decided to hand control of the Temple Mount, the holiest location for Jews, to the Jordanian Waqf, who have maintained a policy of banning Jews from praying at the site to this day.
  • Clearing the Kotel Plaza. Arab homes had filled the area in front of the Kotel for centuries and the Israeli government quickly ordered the low-rise homes to be demolished to enable thousands of Jewish pilgrims to approach and pray en masse at the site.

Mughrabi Quarter before 1946

Clearing the Kotel Plaza, 1967
The combined efforts of giving away the Temple Mount and enlarging access to the Kotel has left the Jewish people and consequently the world with the false idea that the Kotel is the holiest place for Judaism. It is not, nor has it ever been. The Kotel, is just a large exposed segment of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount built by King Herod 2,000 years earlier in an effort to give Jews greater access and movement on THE TEMPLE MOUNT, not so they’d worship a sliver of the wall which kept the mount from collapsing.

Now, some people even believe that the Kotel was actually the western wall of the Temple itself, also completely untrue.

Jerusalem Day is a moment to celebrate the incredible victory of Jews reestablishing their presence and rights in their holiest city. However, it is also a time to note how actions immediately after that victory reoriented our focus and prayers to a wall built by a mad king 2,000 years ago, rather than the “place which He will choose” (Deuteronomy 16:16), the Jewish Temple itself.


Related First One.Through articles:

It’s the Temple Mount, Not the Western Wall

Dignity for Israel: Jewish Prayer on the Temple Mount

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Losing the Temples, Knowledge and Caring

It is Time to Insert “Jewish” into the Names of the Holy Sites

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Calls From the Ashes

Christians around the world were crushed by terrible news over the past week.

On April 15 flames tore through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France almost completely destroying the 800-year old building. Current reports are that an electrical short caused the blaze.

Then just days later on Easter Sunday, several bombs killed over 300 people in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Early reports blame radical Islamic terrorists for the carnage.

If there is any solace to be taken from these terrible tragedies, it is from the reaction from all corners of the world of expressions of horror, condolences and support to rebuild.

  • US President Donald Trump saidso horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” and Vice President Mike Pence, said it was “heartbreaking to see a house of God in flames”, describing the cathedral as “an iconic symbol of faith to people all over the world.
  • UN secretary general, António Guterres, tweeted that he was “horrified” by the destruction of the cathedral, which he called “a unique example of world heritage that has stood tall since the 14th century.
  • Donald Tusk, the president of the EU council, said “Notre Dame of Paris is Notre Dame of the whole of Europe. We are all with Paris today.”

The expressions were repeated regarding the killings in Sri Lanka:

  • US President Donald Trump tweetedHeartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels. We stand ready to help!”
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said that “the acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time. We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear.”
  • EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said “such acts of violence on this holy day are acts of violence against all beliefs and denominations, and against all those who value the freedom of religion and the choice to worship.”

The sentiments were that destruction of these particular Christian houses of worship were an affront to people of all faiths, not just Christians. The entire world was saddened by the accidental cause of destruction and sickened by the deliberate acts of terrorism. The global community stood together in wanting to see these communities rebuild and fight against vile hatred.

If only the Jews in Jerusalem could get an iota of those sentiments.

The Hurva Synagogue and Tiferet Yisrael
in the Old City of Jerusalem

When Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the armies of five Arab countries invaded. The Jordanian army took over the eastern part of the Jewish homeland including eastern Jerusalem and annexed it in a move not recognized by the global community. The Arabs evicted all Jews from those lands and destroyed the synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the two large buildings of Tiferet Yisrael and the Hurva Synagogues.


Old picture of Jerusalem with Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue on left
and top of Hurva Synagogue seen on right

Israel retook the eastern part of its homeland after Jordan attacked Israel again in 1967. It rebuilt the Hurva Synagogue and rededicated it in March 2010 and has started to rebuild Tiferet Yisrael which should open in a few years.


Rebuilt Hurva Synagogue
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

One would imagine that the world would celebrate seeing these Jewish houses of worship being rebuilt on the ground where they once stood, in the holiest city for Jews, where they have been a majority since the 1860’s.

Unfortunately, such sentiments are seemingly reserved for other religions.

Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan condemned the opening of the Hurva in 2010 and United Nations General Counsel Ban Ki-Moon also criticized the opening, causing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to skip the re-dedication ceremony. No country would send an emissary to the opening or congratulate the Jewish State on the milestone.

The Arab world has already started to criticize the rebuilding of Tiferet Yisrael, an even taller structure than the Hurva Synagogue which will dominate much of the Old City skyline.

The Arabs’ ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem and the eastern part of the internationally mandated Jewish homeland in 1949-1967 has been getting a warm nostalgic response today in the United Nations and parts of the globe advocating a boycott of Israel. Those sentiments have set a fertile ground for noxious public antisemitism. As Jews rebuild their Jerusalem synagogues in that blackened holy earth, Zionists hope to hear the sentiments of world leaders supporting the Jewish houses of worship, much as those leaders have declared their support to the besieged Christian communities today.


Related First.One.Through articles:

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

It is Time to Insert “Jewish” into the Names of the Holy Sites

The Arguments over Jerusalem

The United Nations “Provocation”

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

Je Suis Redux

Germans have “Schadenfreude” Jews have “Alemtzev”

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The Jews of Jerusalem In Situ

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term “in situ” as “in the original place, or the place where something should be,” or, alternatively, “in the original place instead of being moved to another place.” In the world of archaeology, there is nothing more valuable than finding an object “in situ” as it gives the ancient room, building and town where the object was found, important context in both time and purpose. Unfortunately, due to ancient sites being raided for centuries, most historical finds are traded in the black market, destroying the ability to accurately relay the provenance of the object and the story of the place from which it was taken.

However, last week the world was blessed by two remarkable discoveries in the City of David, just south of the Old City of Jerusalem’s external walls, of ancient Jewish objects found in situ.

In the ruins of what is currently thought to be a large municipal building dating back to the 6th or 7th century BCE, was a clay seal bearing the inscription “LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech – which translates to “[belonging] to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.” Such servant to the king is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in 2 Kings 23:11.

The second item is a blue agate seal saying “LeIkar Ben Matanyahu” – “(belonging) to Ikar son of Matanyahu.”

Finding these two items in their original location is a blessing and curse for many. For those people who enjoy learning about history, these ancient Jewish finds in what is believed to be the original capital of the unified kingdom of Israel under King David is considered an important piece of the puzzle to understanding the location and way of life of the Jewish people in Jerusalem thousands of years ago. However, for those people who want to see modern Jews evicted from Jerusalem in favor of Arabs, the findings present an obstacle in convincing Jews that they should abandon their history and religion.

Like the finding of the seal of King Hezkiah in Jerusalem in December 2015, and the burnt remains of a Torah scroll found in a synagogue in Ein Gedi, these findings attest to the long history of Jews living throughout the area east of the Green Line. Arab news sites like Al Jazeera refuse to print any of these stories, in an effort to continue to lie to its readership about the history of the Jews in the holy land which predates Islam by thousands of years.

The incredible discoveries makes one consider the two alternative definitions for “in situ” described above: the ancient Jewish finds in Jerusalem were located “in the original place instead of being moved to another place,” while the modern Israeli Jews themselves and the capital of the Jewish State are “in the original place, or the place where something should be,” in Jerusalem.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Gimme that Old-Time Religion

Squeezing Zionism

The New York Times will Keep on Telling You: Jews are not Native to Israel

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Pope Demanding that Jews Have Rights to Pray on The Temple Mount

Pope Francis visited Morocco in late March 2019. He signed a declaration together with Morocco King Mohammed VI that Jerusalem is sacred to three monotheistic religions and must be open and accessible to all religions.

Yet today, only Muslims are allowed to pray on the Jewish Temple Mount and any Jew seen mumbling under their breath is evicted from the site in fear that they might be praying. Further, while large groups of Christian visitors are allowed to roam the 35 acre site, Jews are only allowed to walk around in small groups, and are often accosted by “Mourabitan,” women paid by Hamas to harass Jewish pilgrims.

It is an interesting development for Jewish rights as Morocco hosted a United Nations conference on “The Question of Jerusalem” in Rabat in June 2018. Seemingly, the Arab world is now trying to position itself as the protector of the freedom of access and worship for the three monotheistic religions… even though when Arab Muslims controlled the Old City of Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967, they evicted every Jew and forbade any Jew from entering the city, and continue to attack Jewish visitors at every opportunity.

It is highly unlikely that the Pope will call out the Muslim world on their antisemitism, as many Christians are embattled minorities in Muslim-majority countries. However, this latest announcement could be a wonderful opening for the Pope to clearly advocate for allowing full and open Jewish prayer at their holiest location on the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Dignity for Israel: Jewish Prayer on the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Jerusalem’s Old City Is a Religious War for Muslim Arabs

The Custodianship of a Child and Jerusalem

Oh Abdullah, Jordan is Not So Special

The Arguments over Jerusalem

I call BS: You Never Recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Heritage, Property and Sovereignty in the Holy Land

It’s the Temple Mount, Not the Western Wall

It is Time to Insert “Jewish” into the Names of the Holy Sites

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Jerusalem’s Old City Is a Religious War for Muslim Arabs

The acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas warned the Israelis to not turn their long political fight into a religious war after Palestinian Arabs murdered Jews praying in a Jerusalem synagogue in November 2014. Remarkably sensitive words of consolation (?!) from a head of state.

Just a few months later, Abbas and the Jordanians submitted a 33-page report to UNESCO outlining that the battle for Jerusalem and the Temple Mount was specifically about religion.

The situation is completely farcical from the outset. Jordan, which had attacked the nascent state of Israel in 1948 and illegally seized and annexed the “West Bank” and eastern Jerusalem in a move not recognized by any country in the world, submitted the Old City of Jerusalem to UNESCO in 1981, a year after Israel declared the city its unified capital. How does a country with no standing submit a city in a foreign land for consideration to UNESCO? Who knows?! Perhaps Turkey should submit some sites in northern Cyprus to UNESCO as well. Or better yet, Russia should submit East Berlin, a city divided in war that no longer has a distinct separated entity anymore and is no longer occupied by foreign forces.

To add insult to injury and absurdity, the March 2015 Jordanian/Palestinian document was not a review of the current condition of the Old City of Jerusalem, a matter which might interest UNESCO as part of its officially stated mission. Instead, it was an attack on Jews and the Jewish State, exactly the opposite of what Abbas asked from Israel.

The report mentioned the word Jews and Jewish 44 times (and not favorably). It also introduced a bizarre set of words such as “Judaize” and “Judaization” which it used 22 times. Here’s a meaty example:

“They all reassure their rejection of the attempts to Judaize Al-Aqsa Mosque or any of its components by the Israeli Occupation Authorities, its various organs and the extreme Jewish organizations, which attempt interfering with its administration, preventing and disrupting Muslim worshippers from entering and praying, hampering its maintenance/renovation/repair, and attempts to befog the religious historic Muslim exclusive right and identification by forced use of un-Islamic names such as “The Temple Mount” as part of the Judaization policy enforced by the Israeli Occupation Power of the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

Wow! Now I’m really befogged!

In case you wondered, “Al-Aqsa” is mentioned 109 times compared to only three for the “Temple Mount,” and, as you might have guessed, those three were not positive. In this quote, the Jordanians and Palestinians dismiss the historical existence of the two Jewish Temples:

“… as 2010 approached, the Davidson Center was constructed and the site was turned into an active museum of the so-called “First Temple and Second Temple.

For the Jordanians and Palestinians, the issue isn’t as much about the sovereignty of the land of eastern Jerusalem as much as it is about enforcing a “Muslim exclusive right” to the Old City and the Temple Mount.


Judaism’s holiest site

When the United Nations adopts Muslim anti-Semitic propaganda and says nothing about stripping Jews of their holiest site, no one should be surprised when religious Christians and Jews and decent people everywhere say enough is enough.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Palestinian’s Three Denials

Jordan’s Deceit and Hunger for Control of Jerusalem

Would You Rather Have Sovereignty or Control

Dignity for Israel: Jewish Prayer on the Temple Mount

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Abbas’s Harmful East Jerusalem Fantasy

Ending Apartheid in Jerusalem

Time for King Abdullah of Jordan to Denounce the Mourabitoun

It is Time to Insert “Jewish” into the Names of the Holy Sites

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Marking November 29 as The International Day of Solidarity with Jews Living East of the Green Line

For many years, the United Nations has chosen to mark the anniversary of the November 29, 1947 vote to partition Palestine into distinct Jewish and Arab states as a day of solidarity for only one of those groups – the Arabs.

The times they aren’t a changin’.

On November 28, 2018, the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres spoke at the Meeting of Committee of the Inalienable Rights of Palestinian People (that’s the actual name of the group). Not only does the UN only have a unique group for the Arabs from Palestine and none for the Jews, but the UN also argues that the Arabs have “inalienable rights” to a separate country – not autonomy or self-determination – but a special unique country, which is also a right not afforded to any people anywhere on the planet.

Speaking at such a forum the day before the November 29 anniversary, Gutteres gave the audience the red meat they so covet. After calling on Israel to stop building “illegal settlements,” he added the following:

“I call on all actors, and first and foremost the leadership of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to take bold steps and restore faith in the promise of General Assembly resolution 181, of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, fulfilling the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples, with borders based on the 1967 lines and Jerusalem as the capital of both States ‑ East Jerusalem being the capital of the Palestinian State.

It is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It is the only option for a comprehensive and just peace, and I call on the international community to intensify its engagement and reiterate its commitment to assist Palestinians and Israelis in reaching the two-State solution.”

Moving past the absurdity that no people on the planet have inalienable rights to their own sovereign country, just to self-determination (hey, anyone want to start a country tomorrow?) it is further absurd to state that the only formula to achieve such right is based on armistice lines from a war fought over 70 years ago in which all parties agreed would NOT serve as permanent borders, and that dividing a capital city between two countries has any logic, when it is a formula only used in war-time (Berlin, Beirut, Nicosia anyone?)

But it moves past the absurd to discriminatory and antisemitic to declare that Jews should be banned from living anywhere east of that Green Line. That the only way that an Arab state could exist is to be Jew-free and controlling Judaism’s holiest location.

People who want to see peace in the region should stand firmly against this antisemitic formula for a two-state solution. A viable – and peaceful – independent Palestine could exist:

  • WITH Jews living throughout the land;
  • with borders that DO NOT follow the 1949 Armistice Lines / Green Line;
  • with BETHLEHEM, an integral part of the corpus separatum that was voted upon on November 29, 1947, as the Palestinian capital city

The world continues to declare that Palestinian Arabs have unique rights and Jews uniquely have none: Palestinian Arabs must have a distinct country; Jews must be banned from living in parts of their holy land.

It is past time to call out the insanity and antisemitism, and mark November 29 as a day of solidarity with Jews in Israel and its territories. It is time to recall:

  • that international laws of 1920 and 1922 specifically ENCOURAGED Jews to live throughout Palestine, including in Judea and Samaria which were later renamed the “West Bank”;
  • international laws and human rights laws that forbid the discrimination of anyone based on religion from being able to live in Palestine, including the West Bank and Gaza (Article 15)

These are not “right-wing” positions. These are positions based on human rights and international law.

View of Jerusalem, from Hebrew University
(photo: First.One.Through)

I stand with the rights of Jews to live throughout their holy land, including in their holiest city of Jerusalem.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Time to Dissolve Key Principles of the “Inalienable Rights of Palestinians”

The Palestinian State I Oppose

The UN’s #Alternative Facts about the 1967 Six Day War

Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

Ending Apartheid in Jerusalem

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The 1967 “Borders” (music by The Kinks)

Judea and Samaria (music by Foo Fighters)

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The Hypocrisy Between An Embassy for Israel in Jerusalem and East Jerusalem, OPT

There are so many examples of the bias at the United Nations in favor of Palestinian Arabs over Israel, that the obvious ones are sometimes overlooked.

Consider the situation of Jerusalem, a holy city for three religions which has had a Jewish majority since the 1860’s.

In trying to find a solution for the hotly contested city, the UN General Assembly voted on November 29, 1947 to place Greater Jerusalem and Greater Bethlehem into a distinct corpus separatum which would neither be part of a Jewish State of Israel nor an Arab State of Palestine. The nations at the UN voted 33 in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions. (The 13 countries that voted against the partition were mostly the Arab and Muslim countries of Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.) The proposal would never come to pass, as the “corpus separatum” was divided after Israel’s War of Independence with Israel controlling the western half of Jerusalem and the Jordanians controlling all of Greater Bethlehem and the eastern portion of Jerusalem.

Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital city and located its federal government buildings there, but virtually no countries recognized Israel’s assumption of the western part of the city, nor the Jordanian occupation of the eastern part of the city. That was the situation from 1949 to 1967, and continued to be true after the Jordanians attacked Israel again in June 1967 and lost its portion of corpus separatum and the rest of the West Bank.

For decades, countries have continued to withhold their recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, much as they had since Israel founding.


Israeli flag waving in front of the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple Mount
(photo: First.One.Through)

That changed recently.

In December 2017, the United States decided to acknowledge the fact that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, to the chagrin of many other countries. A few weeks later, the UN voted to condemn the United States’ relocation of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem by a vote of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions. Many of the 128 countries voiced opinions that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority. Any recognition that either the Israelis or Palestinian Arabs has a superior claim to areas of corpus separatum was to be avoided.

Yet, with no sense of embarrassment or question of hypocrisy, many of those same nations which voted to admonish the US, chose to vote at the UN on November 16, 2018 on several resolutions which referred to East Jerusalem as “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

  • Draft resolution “Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories” (document A/C.4/73/L.19) passed by a vote of 154 to 5 with 8 abstentions.
  • The draft resolution titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/73/L.20) passed by a recorded 153 votes in favour to 5 against with 10 abstentions.
  • The draft resolution “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/73/L.21) passed by 153 to 6 with 9 abstentions.

If countries want to be consistent in their treatment of Jerusalem and desire for peace, they have a choice: either recognize Israel’s claim to the western part of the city and move their embassies to the western part of Jerusalem just like the United States, OR refuse to call “East Jerusalem” part of “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Any country refusing to move its embassy for Israel to Jerusalem while simultaneously calling the eastern part of Jerusalem part of “Occupied Palestinian Territory” is spitting in the face of Israel and rejecting participating in the peace process.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Abbas’s Harmful East Jerusalem Fantasy

Western Jerusalem’s U.S. Consulate and Embassy

Ending Apartheid in Jerusalem

I call BS: You Never Recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Both Israel and Jerusalem are Beyond Recognition for Muslim Nations

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Arabs in Jerusalem

The Arguments over Jerusalem

The United Nations’ Adoption of Palestinians, Enables It to Only Find Fault With Israel

Maybe Truman Should Not Have Recognized Israel

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

The UN’s Disinterest in Jewish Rights at Jewish Holy Places

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A Sofer at the Kotel

Jews around the world just finished reading the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, and promptly began to start the Bible again from the beginning. The time between finishing the public reading and recommencing the weekly recitation was only a few minutes. For Jews, the Bible is a living document that is always being read and learned. There is no “finishing” the Bible; just completing it and commencing again in rapid succession.

The holiday of completing the weekly Torah readings is called Simchat Torah, the Joy of the Bible. The Jewish religious denominations take different approaches to mark the holiday. Hasidic men may be seen dancing in circles with Torahs in the streets; many Reform Temples unfurl the entire Torah with men, women and children holding a section in a large circle. There is a common moment of celebration, but unique methods of celebrating.

With such thoughts about the recent holiday, it is time to advance a principle which is inscribed towards the end of the Pentateuch: to write a Torah.

Some biblical commentators believe that biblical commandment is only applicable to kings; others have said that the king need not actually write the Torah, but to own one. Still others have suggested that the commandment is for everyone to participate in the writing of the Torah, perhaps by paying a scribe, a sofer, to write one on their behalf.

This post is a proposal is to have a permanent sofer at the Western Wall, the Kotel, so everyone can participate in the mitzvah.

Background Issues

  1. Political. Discussions regarding Jerusalem, the Old City and the Kotel have been trapped in politics for many years. Who has or should have sovereignty and control is debated everywhere, with various advocates supporting Israel, the Palestinians, the Jordanian Waqf and the international community. Many leaders have sought to avoid the inherent religious nature of the location as they fear inflaming passions and violence among the three major monotheistic religions.
  2. Jewish Religious denominations. The Kotel plaza is currently caught in a fight within the various Jewish denominations. Recently, a dedicated space for non-Orthodox prayer has taken steps forwards-and-backwards, such as the expanded prayer area at Robinson’s Arch being approved and disapproved. The Jewish community outside of Israel (which is mostly non-Orthodox) has taken a sharply negative attitude towards Israel on this point, which is harmful on multiple levels to Israel and Jews worldwide.
  3. Education and performing a Mitzvah. Many people who come to the Kotel do not have a deep understanding of Judaism. They are foreigners who see an archaeological site caught in a political quagmire. Their visits often lack deeper religious engagement.
  4. Bridging the Israeli Ashkenazi and Sefaradi Communities. While the two communities often lead distinct lives, there is a chance for the two groups to create something together and forge a common bond, especially in Jerusalem.

The Opportunity

  1. Large Attendance. Jerusalem’s Old City – and the Kotel in particular – attracts millions of people a year. However, there has been no concerted attempt to actively engage the pilgrims and tourists in anything of religious or spiritual consequence. The plaza is simply an open space for pictures and pan-handlers.
  2. Spiritual Center. While the most sacred spot for Judaism is not the Kotel but the Temple Mount itself, it is the Kotel that has served as the religious symbol for Jews since the time of Suleiman I in the 1500s. While there is daily prayer at the Kotel, can there be more religious engagement?

Bar Mitzvah party entering the Old City of Jerusalem through Zion’s Gate
(photo: First.One.Through)

The Proposal

  1. Sofer at Kotel. The issues above can be addressed by adding a small building (about 47 feet wide) at the back of the Kotel plaza which would house a sofer who would write a Torah six days a week from 8:00am to 8:00pm. By giving a donation, visitors would be able to participate in the mitzvah of writing a Torah, as they observe the sofer write a word on their behalf.
  2. Ashkenazi and Sefardi approved. There would be both Ashekanzi and Sefardi sofers that would be approved by the chief rabbis of each group. The finished Torahs would alternate between being housed in an Ashkenazi and Sefaradi cases.
  3. One Sefer published each year. A Torah would be completed each year around Simchat Torah. The Kotel plaza would have a large celebration at the completion of the sefer.
  4. The World’s Gifts to Israel. The first two Torahs (first Sefaradi and second year Ashkenazi) would be housed at the Kotel itself. In future years, the Torahs would be sent around Israel to shuls, schools, hospitals and army bases.
  5. Everyone can participate. A woman from sherut leumi will welcome each participant in the entry room of the building, just outside of the sofer’s room. They will accept a donation of any sum from the visitor which will go towards the Kotel Torah effort. A pruta, or penny, will be enough to “purchase” a single letter in the Torah, and minimum donation levels for a word or a sentence. The participant will have the option of having a picture taken with the sofer, and having their name, city, and country be included among the thousands participating in the writing of the sefer Torah.
  6. The Sofer building. The building would not be very large. It would resemble an Ashkenazi Torah scroll viewed from above: narrow rectangular entry and exit room on either sides (each about 10’ by 16’) and a broader rectangle in the middle for the sofer which will have a large window providing natural light and for people to peer in. The roof with have a conical dome in the middle above the sofer’s room, to resemble a Sefardi Torah case when viewed from street level.
    1. The entry room will have materials for signing in, and a digital map showing where all of the participants for the current Torah have come from. Exhibits explaining how a Torah is written will be on the walls.
    2. The sofer’s room will have materials and the desk for the sofer, and room for a photographer to take pictures with the participants.
    3. The exit room will have materials related to restoring Torahs and digital tools like Sefaria and the Bar Ilan project.

Concern

Everything around the Kotel involves a global outcry. The United Nations has gone to such extreme and absurd levels that it has condemned Israel for mundane items like placing an umbrella in the Kotel Plaza. Placing a building at the back of the Plaza might generate similar protest, however, limiting its size may ameliorate some of the concerns, as well as not having any national flags atop the structure.

Conclusion

Bringing a sofer to the Kotel will hopefully allow all Jews to engage with the Judaism’s holiest space in a religious manner. Everyone would have a chance to perform the special mitzvah – even those with no knowledge of Hebrew and limited Jewish education. Participants will not only view the site from a physical and political basis, but also from a spiritual one.

For Israel, this can be a fence-mending opportunity. The global non-Orthodox community which feels disconnected from Israel and its Orthodox religious leaders will be able to stand in line and participate in writing the very same Torah as Orthodox Jews. This is a chance to open religion and the Kotel to everyone around the world.

There is a song that will be sung in a continuous loop at the building that houses the permanent sofer at the Kotel, words from the prophets Isaiah and Micha: “For the Torah shall come forth from Zion, and the words of God from Jerusalem.” Words that will hopefully bring unity to Jews around the world.

וְֽהָלְכ֞וּ גּוֹיִ֣ם רַבִּ֗ים וְאָֽמְרוּ֙ לְכ֣וּ ׀ וְנַעֲלֶ֣ה אֶל־הַר־יְהוָ֗ה וְאֶל־בֵּית֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְיוֹרֵ֙נוּ֙ מִדְּרָכָ֔יו וְנֵלְכָ֖ה בְּאֹֽרְחֹתָ֑יו כִּ֤י מִצִּיּוֹן֙ תֵּצֵ֣א תוֹרָ֔ה וּדְבַר־יְהוָ֖ה מִירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

“And the many nations shall go and shall say: “Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the LORD, To the House of the God of Jacob; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Micha 4:2) (Isaiah 2:3)


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Abbas’s Harmful East Jerusalem Fantasy

The acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018. The first words from his mouth were “Jerusalem is not for sale.” If only he understood the real truth in those words – Israel is not going to sell Jerusalem.

But, alas, Abbas thinks that the Palestinian Authority is the owner of Jerusalem, the PA controls it and will not compromise on its status.

Even more, Abbas ruled out any peace agreement without Jerusalem. At 18:04 of his speech, Abbas said “Peace in our region cannot be realized without an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, with all its holy sites…. East Jerusalem, which has been occupied since 1967 is our capital. There is no peace otherwise.

Abbas has long refused to acknowledge many truths. He imagines that Israel is a racist state which practices apartheid, even while it is the most open and liberal society for thousands of miles in any direction. Abbas pretends that he does not support terrorism, even while he sends terrorists’ families money and names schools and government properties after murderers.

Those lies lead Abbas to despise Israel and foment more violence and bloodshed. But, at least theoretically, he could advance peace and coexistence with such vile beliefs. However, his lies about Jerusalem are particularly harmful to the region, as he ties his fantasy to the ability to move forward to live in peace with Israel.

Jerusalem was never the capital of a Palestinian state nor intended to be a capital of an Arab state in any peace formulation. Ever.

When the United Nations voted on a partition plan for a Jewish State of Israel and Arab State of Palestine in 1947, it clearly marked a corpus separatum, a distinct international entity to hold Greater Bethlehem and Greater Jerusalem.

Annex B to resolution 181 (II) of the General Assembly,
dated 29 November 1947 for Greater Bethlehem and Greater Jerusalem

The Arab countries rejected the UN proposal and by May 1948 launched an attack on the new State of Israel. At war’s end, Jordan illegally seized control of three-quarters of the corpus separatum including all of Greater Bethlehem and the eastern half of Jerusalem, in a move that the world did not recognize. Israel took control of the western half of Greater Jerusalem and made it its capital. Jordan expelled all of the Jews from the area it seized and granted all non-Jews Jordanian citizenship in an outrageous antisemitic act in 1954.

The Jordanians gave Jordanian citizenship to the Palestinians in the newly named “West Bank” and “East Jerusalem.” They would make no attempt to give them independence or sovereignty throughout their period of illegal control until 1967.

In 1967, Jordan (and the Palestinians who had Jordanian citizenship) attacked Israel again and subsequently lost all of the “West Bank” and Greater Bethlehem and eastern Jerusalem. Israel took control of the area, and expanded the borders of Jerusalem in 1980, declaringJerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.

As a sign of good faith during the Oslo Accords, Israel handed the Palestinian Authority a core part of corpus separatum, Bethlehem. With Israel, the PA and its peace sponsors all supporting the move, the concept of corpus separatum ended.

Abbas remains undeterred by facts. Before 1948 Jerusalem was to be an international city; from 1949 to 1967 the Jordanians controlled the city and made no efforts to give it to Palestinians; and from 1967 the entirety of the city has been the capital of Israel.

While Israel has permitted the Jordanian Waqf to have administrative responsibilities for Muslim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem (and no King Abdullah, Jordan has NO responsibility for Christian sites), the ownership, control and sovereignty of the city is Israel’s.

Jerusalem has never been a Palestinian capital, was never intended to be a Palestinian capital and is not a Palestinian city to even contemplate in a “sale.”


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Jerusalem, and a review of the sad state of divided capitals in the world

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Ending Apartheid in Jerusalem

Expulsion. Exclusion. Discrimination.

These are terrible actions, especially against civilians seeking to live and pray in their holiest city.

But they have been the reality in one of the great cities of the world – Jerusalem.

When the League of Nations (forerunner to the United Nations) sought to create space for Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land in 1922, it made clear that all parties should be free to live and worship according to their custom, as laid out in Article 15:

“The Mandatory shall see that complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, are ensured to all. No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.”

The United Nations tried to ensure that there would be freedom of access and worship when it took up the cause of Palestine in 1947. The UN planned on placing the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem into a “corpus separatum,” an international holy basin that would neither be part of a Jewish State of Israel, nor an Arab state of Palestine. While the Jewish Zionists accepted the plan, the Arabs rejected it and went to war to destroy Israel as soon as it declared itself an independent country in May 1948. By the war’s end in 1949, Jordan claimed all of Bethlehem and the eastern half of Jerusalem including Judaism’s holiest site, while Israel took the western half of Jerusalem.


The UN’s Corpus Separatum of Greater Jerusalem and Greater Bethlehem

The Israelis gave citizenship to all 160,000 non-Jews in Israel, but the Jordanians instituted an ethnic cleansing of all Jews from the west bank of the Jordan River through eastern Jerusalem.

In April 1950, the Jordanians annexed the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the entirety in of the western bank of the Jordan River in a move that was not recognized by almost the entire world. The Arabs put up barbed wire and blockades and prevented any Jews from entering or visiting the Old City of Jerusalem including the holy sites of the Kotel, the Western Wall, and the Jewish Temple Mount.

In 1954, the Jordanians continued their discriminatory program and granted citizenship to the people of the west bank and eastern Jerusalem, specifically IF THEY WERE NOT JEWISH.

These Arab policies of expulsion, exclusion and discrimination would remain in effect until June 10, 1967.

Just as the Jordanians launched an attack on Israel in 1948, it would do so again in June 1967. And just as Israel won more land in its defensive battle of independence in 1948-9, it would take more of the land that had been allocated as a Jewish homeland in international law in 1922.

At the end of the Six Day War the Arab edicts of expulsion and exclusion were eradicated, and Jews once again moved into their holiest city, rebuilt the destroyed synagogues and resumed praying at the Kotel.

However, the stain of discrimination still exists in Jerusalem, as the government of Israel handed administrative control of the Jewish Temple Mount to the Jordanian Waqf in 1967 in an effort to forge peace. To this day, the Waqf continues to prohibit Jews from praying at Judaims’ holiest location.

While June 10, 1967 began the process of dismantling apartheid in Jerusalem, there is still some way to go.


The Kotel in the Old City of Jerusalem
(photo: First.One.Through)


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Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

Joint Prayer: The Cave of the Patriarchs and the Temple Mount

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