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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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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The Jewish Holy Land

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While UNESCO Condemns Egalitarian Prayer at the Kotel, J Street Yawns

J Street has long opposed Israel’s control and administration of lands that it won in the defensive war against Jordan in 1967.

  • In 2011 it urged the Obama Administration to craft language with the United Nations that condemned Jewish “settlements” east of the Green Line (EGL/ the West Bank) – including in Jerusalem.
  • In 2014 it urged the United States to declare that Jewish settlements were “illegal under international law.
  • In 2016, J Street declared victory upon the UN Security Council’s passing of Resolution 2334 with the Obama Administrations help. J Street would take out a full page advertisement in the New York Times on January 5, 2017 thanking Obama for this action.

Did J Street mind that this same United Nations did not care much for the rights of Jews to pray at their holiest spot? Seemingly, not at all.

In October 2016, UNESCO approved a resolution condemning Israel for a wide range of violations in Jerusalem. One of these rebukes addressed the Israeli government’s attempt to create a place for pluralistic prayer along the Kotel.

“19. Deprecates the continuing Israeli unilateral measures and decisions regarding the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate, including the latest works conducted at the Mughrabi Gate entrance in February 2015, the instalment of an umbrella at that entrance as well as the enforced creation of a new Jewish prayer platform south of the Mughrabi Ascent in Al-Buraq Plaza “Western Wall Plaza”, and the removal of the Islamic remains at the site, and reaffirms that no Israeli unilateral measures, shall be taken in conformity with its status and obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict;”

The “new Jewish prayer platform” was being advanced by the Israeli government in collaboration with the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations to create a space for worship in an egalitarian fashion. As with all activities by Israel in Jerusalem – even the installment of an umbrella! (above) – the United Nations condemned Israel.

J Street was nonplussed.

The leader of J Street, Jeremy Ben Ami

In its statement addressing the October 2016 UNESCO resolution, J Street never mentioned the United Nations attack on the advancement of non-Orthodox prayer at the Kotel. Instead J Street argued for the United States to restore funding for UNESCO which has been withheld after the organization admitted “the State of Palestine” as a member.

J Street would eventually tackle the issue, with a statement in June 2017 condemning the Israeli government on the decision to suspend the creation of an expanded Jewish prayer platform for egalitarian prayer. J Street attacked “Ultra-Orthodox parties” for being behind the Israeli government’s move. It then urged its loyal liberal backers to distance themselves from the current Israeli government:

“The current [Israeli] government, dominated by the far-right of Israeli politics, has made clear that it is out of step with many of the core values, beliefs and interests of the vast majority of American Jews.”

J Street had moved from lobbying the far-left US Obama Administration to lobbying Americans to condemn the Israeli government.


J Street’s positions often seem at odds with itself. It aggressively pushed the US to label Israeli actions east of the Green Line as “illegal,” but then condemned the Israeli government for not taking actions at the Kotel in the Old City of Jerusalem, where it claimed that the Israeli government has no legal rights at all.

Does J Street believe that the Israeli government has authority to create a place for non-Orthodox prayer at the Kotel or not? If the government has no legal rights, then why condemn it? If J Street was so comfortable in stripping Israel’s authority at Judaism’s holiest site and giving it to the United Nations, then why not condemn the United Nations assault on pluralistic prayer?

J Street is a far-left fringe group that does not represent most Americans or most American Jews, yet it lobbied successfully to push the US Administration to adopt a damaging resolution on the world stage with far-reaching implications – for ISRAEL. At the same time, J Street attacked the “far-right” in Israel for lobbying successfully for actions – in ISRAEL. Which is more outrageous? A fringe group of Americans damaging Israel on the world stage, or a fringe group of Israelis lobbying for actions in their own country?


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

Liberals’ Biggest Enemies of 2015

 

Time for King Abdullah of Jordan to Denounce the Mourabitoun

King Abdullah II of Jordan came to Washington D.C. in February 2017 to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. We once again spoke eloquently about “tolerance, mercy, compassion for others, mutual respect.” He stated clearly his belief that people should be “equal in dignity” and that there should be “respect for the houses of God.” Welcome words, particularly from the leader of a country with a terrible history of treating Jews and Jewish holy places.

As reviewed in “Jordan’s Deceit and Hunger for Control of Jerusalem,” Jordan attacked Israel several times, banned Jews from their holy places and instituted an anti-Semitic nationality law that specifically excluded Jews from getting Jordanian citizenship.

abdullah-prayer-breakfast
Jordanian King Abdullah II speaking at National Prayer Breakfast
February 2, 2017

But Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994 and perhaps King Abdullah may finally be ready to take the next step in recognizing Jewish rights in Jerusalem.

The Mourabitoun

After the Gaza War in 2014, the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank were looking for a way to express their anger at Israel. On the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem, dozens of Muslim women began to actively protest Jews coming onto the plaza. They would follow the visitors around the site and yell “Allahu Akbar” in efforts to intimidate them to leave the area.

Men joined these protestors as well, sometimes throwing rocks at the Jewish visitors. These “Mourabitoun” were actively promoted by the terrorist group Hamas, and tacitly approved by the Waqf that administers the holy site. The Waqf is funded by the Jordanian government.

Because of the Mourabitoun, the number of Jews that get to visit the Jewish Temple Mount is a fraction of the tourists that ascend to the complex each day. Armed Israeli guards vet each Jews that goes up to ensure that they have no prayer books and do not pray during the visit. The soldiers surround these small groups of 10-15 people as they methodically go to discrete areas of the site.

Meanwhile, thousands of non-Jewish tourists get to visit Judaism’s holiest site unimpeded.

If Abdullah wants to be a man true to his word, it is time to denounce the Mourabitoun and give Jews the tolerance and mutual respect he says is necessary for a peaceful world. It is time for the Waqf to not stand in the way of Jewish visitors who used to pray freely on the Temple Mount 450 years ago, before Suleiman kicked them from the site and relegated a small section of the western retaining wall of the mount – the Kotel – for Jewish prayer.

Will Abdullah be a man of his word in advancing peace and respect as he advocated at a prayer breakfast? Or will he be a hypocrite and anti-Semite who cannot show mutual respect to Jews? It is time for action, not just words.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

It’s the Temple Mount, Not the Western Wall

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

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

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Losing the Temples, Knowledge and Caring

In modern times, the “Western Wall” or the Kotel has become the center of Jewish prayers.  As it has done so, it has replaced the Temple and Temple Mount in the minds of many Jews, so much so, that people have forgotten and misrepresent what the Kotel actually is or have stopped caring at all.

IMG_2052
Young and Old pray at the Kotel

Non-Orthodox Jews “Don’t Care”

The Jewish Week, a popular weekly newspaper for Jews in the metropolitan New York City area, published a piece called “Mourning the Temples’ Losses” on July 24, 2015. The article was written about the holiday of Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which is when tradition states that each of the two Jewish Temples were destroyed.  The article claims that the holiday has become only meaningful to Orthodox Jews, and for “secular Jews, ‘Tisha b’Av seems a vestigial organ,’ writes Don Futterman, program director in Israel for the Moriah Fund, wrote in Haaretz [a left-wing Israeli paper].” 

The secular anti-Orthodox newspaper quoted a left-wing charity in Israel which describes itself as “Promoting Civil Rights, Social Justice and Democracy in Israel and “Protecting and advancing human rights” which it feels it can achieve by funding movies questioning Israel such as “Breaking the Silence” and the anti-Israel 972 magazine.  These are indeed the views of many secular and liberal Israelis who feel that Judaism has evolved from Temple service to prayer, and from prayer to “social justice”. Together with such evolution was an abandonment of historic places and forms of worship to a modern emphasis only on people.  Those “vestigial organs” are there as part of history, but serve no function (and can and should be removed if they prove dangerous to the body as a whole).

Orthodox Jews “Don’t Know”

The Jewish Week continued that “for many Orthodox Israelis, the center of their Tisha b’Av observance is the plaza of the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple.” The statement repeats an often repeated falsehood about the nature of the Western Wall. The Temples were completely destroyed and no walls of the Temples stand today. Aish.com, which claims to be “the leading Jewish content website” posts on its website that “The Western Wall is a surviving remnant of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,”  .

The Kotel is the western wall of the TEMPLE MOUNT, not of the Temple.  The Temple Mount was built by King Herod between 19BCE and 63CE to extend the size of the platform southward to both enable more people and traffic flow to the Second Temple. As the Temple was built atop a hill, extending the platform at the same height as the Temple required “filling in” the slopes of the hill.  The Kotel is the western wall of that supporting structure.

The Kotel gained significance in Judaism (say compared to the southern Temple Mount wall which is similarly a retaining wall), around the year 1550.  Prior to that year, many Jews visited and prayed on the Temple Mount itself including Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1316) and Rabbi David ben Shlomo Ibn Zimra, (known as the Radbaz, 1479–1573), the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.  However, around 1550, while Ottoman leader Suleiman I made various structural improvements to the city of Jerusalem, he set aside the Western Wall area as a designated area for the Jews to pray.

After the 1967 Six Day War, Israel reunited Jerusalem including the Old City, the Temple Mount and the Kotel. After 18 years of being banned from the city by the Jordanians (1949-67), Israelis celebrated their return to the Old City.  To maintain calm after the war with the Muslim world, Israel handed administrative control of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf. Israel then demolished the Mughrabi Quarter which abutted the Kotel to create the Western Wall Plaza that many know today. This plaza enables thousands of Jews to visit the Kotel at one time.

DSC_0087
The Kotel with the Dome of the Rock,
location of the Jewish Temples

Tisha b’Av

Every year the Jews mark a day on the calendar to remember the destruction of the Temples. Over time, the Tisha b’Av holiday incorporated other tragic events such as the expulsion of 200,000 Jews from Spain in 1492.  Perhaps today Jews should also mourn a newer tragedy in their history: their apathy and ignorance.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

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

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

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The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Summary: According to Muslims, the Temple Mount is held in “trusteeship” by the Islamic Waqf, which assures its use and access as a mosque. The role of the Waqf has nothing to do with sovereignty of the land on which it resides.

The most sensitive issue of the Israel-Arab conflict is considered to be the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

TEMPLE MOUNT

The Temple Mount is a 35 acre platform that held the second Jewish Temple from around 515CE to 70CE. Herod extended the platform on which the Temple sat southward to enable the greater flow of the thousands of Jews that came to the Temple to perform their rituals. The platform extension project ran from 19BCE to 63CE and Jews enjoyed the benefit of his work until the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70CE.

10857261_10153336968548706_7334281522188334026_o
The Old City of Jerusalem, including Jewish Quarter and Temple Mount

The area is considered sacred to Muslims as they believe Mohammed had a night journey from Saudi Arabia on a flying horse to that location before ascending to heaven. When Arabs invaded Jerusalem in 627CE, they built the al Aqsa Mosque on the southern edge of Temple Mount (completed in 705CE and rebuilt in 1033) to commemorate the importance of the location. The other structures on the Temple Mount include the Dome of the Rock, the Dome of the Chain, the Dome of the Prophet and various other structures which are NOT mosques, but shrines.

Jews had access and were able to pray on the Temple Mount until around the year 1550, when Suleiman I began a series of “improvements” to Jerusalem. He ordered the rebuilding of the city walls and moved the Jews off of the mount to an area now referred to as the “Kotel” or “Wailing Wall” or “Western Wall”, a sliver of the western retaining wall built by Herod. Since that time, prayer on the Mount has been restricted only for Muslim use.

MODERN HISTORY

Five Arab armies attacked Israel at its founding in 1948. At the end of the war in 1949, Jerusalem became divided with the western half (almost all completely established since the 1850s) under Israeli sovereignty, and the eastern half (including the Old City dating back 4000 years) under Jordanian sovereignty (which was not recognized by the United Nations). The Jordanians evicted all of the Jews and barred their reentry, even to visit their holy sites, counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In 1967, the Jordanians again attacked Israel. They lost the eastern half of Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria, which they had annexed in 1950. Israel reunified the city and made clear that people of all religions – not just Jews – would have access and rights to their holy places.  Non-Muslims were once again allowed onto the platform, and Israel gave administrative oversight of the Temple Mount compound to the Jordanian Waqf. Israel annexed the area and the rest of eastern Jerusalem in a move not recognized globally.

In 1988, Jordan gave up all claims to lands it lost to Israel in the 1967 war, and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. In that peace agreement, several key clauses were added to address Jerusalem, Article 9:

  • Each Party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.
  • In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.
  • The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.

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Jews Praying at the Kotel, 2015

WAQF

Islam allows Muslims to place property (land or any object) into a “Waqf”. By doing so, the item comes under the trusteeship of the party specified in the declaration. In the case of the al Aqsa Mosque, the building is considered to be for the public use of all Muslims under the administration of the Jordanian Waqf.

When the al Aqsa mosque was taken over by Crusaders in the 12th century, the place did not lose its special status for Muslims. As stated in Issue 2697: ““If the Waqfed property is ruined, its position as Waqf is not affected, except when the Waqf is of a special nature, and that special feature ceases to exist. For example, if a person endows a garden and the garden is ruined, the Waqf becomes void and the garden reverts to the heirs of the person.”

Properties or entities like the Old City of Jerusalem or the Temple Mount itself can be subdivided according to Islam. As written in Issue 2698: “If one part of a property has been waqfed and the other part is not, and the property is undivided, the Mujtahid, or the trustee of the Waqf, or the beneficiaries can divide the property and separate the Waqf part in consultation with the experts.”

As described above, the Jordanian Waqf took control of the Temple Mount in 1949 and Israel has continued to let the Waqf administer the site. The Jordanian Waqf now employs 500 people to run the mosque. It does this, while Israel maintains all security controls and runs it as part and parcel of Israel.

It would appear that the actions of 1967, 1988 and 1994 laid the groundwork for a sharing of the Temple Mount between Jews and Muslims again. However, it has continued to be a struggle.

 POLITICS and PROPAGANDA

Over the last few years, the Waqf has become more politicized, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, as it was decades ago. Public statements from the Waqf:

  • Deny Jewish history at the Temple Mount
  • Attempt to deny Jewish rights of access
  • Deny Jewish rights to prayer (agreed to by the Israeli government)
  • Deny sovereignty of the Jewish State and Jerusalem municipality (agreed by many countries in the United Nations)

Consider a recent discovery of ancient Judaica near the Temple Mount. The Waqf issued a statement that the findings were “an attempt to support Israeli claims about Jewish rights in the holy city and to impose Israeli sovereignty on the occupied holy compound through the use of fake evidence….An immediate Arab and Muslim campaign is needed to stop the Israeli attempts to Judaise the holy city of Jerusalem,”

temple mt find
Discovery of Jewish artifacts at base of Temple Mount
dating to period before creation of Islam

It is interesting that the Waqf would make a claim of “Judaising” the city of Jerusalem which has had a Jewish majority for 150 years. It was also this same Jordanian Waqf that participated in expelling Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem and barring their entry from 1949-1967.

PEACE ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT

Israel’s perspective: Israel has sought a peaceful situation on the Temple Mount from the very beginning of reunifying Jerusalem. In 1967, Moshe Dayan announced: “To our Arab neighbors we extend, especially at this hour, the hand of peace. To members of the other religions, Christians and Muslims, I hereby promise faithfully that their full freedom and all their religious rights will be preserved. We did not come to Jerusalem to conquer the Holy Places of others.”

The declaration was followed by the establishment of the Protection of Holy Places Law which ensured the rights of all religions to pray at their holy sites.

Today, in an effort to appease the extremist views of the Waqf, radical Palestinians and the Jordanian government itself which threated to break its peace treaty with Israel, the Israeli government has continued to enforce a ban on Jewish prayer on the Mount.

Muslims’ Perspective: Suleiman pushed the Jews off of the Temple Mount in 1550 and Jordanian Arabs expelled the Jews from the entire Old City in 1949. Muslims and Arabs would clearly prefer that there be no Jews in Jerusalem.

However, according to Islam, there is no conflict with the Temple Mount being completely under Israeli sovereignty as detailed above.

According to the Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan, the Temple Mount (outside of al Aqsa Mosque) should permit non-Mulsim prayer, despite Jordan’s recent protests.

Israel has continued to extend its full hand to share the Temple Mount.  Meanwhile, the Arab world took initial steps some decades ago to recognize Jewish history and rights which do not conflict with Islamic law.  Regrettably, recent history has witnessed a more hostile Arab approach.

Perhaps the future will witness peace on the Temple Mount with full access and rights for Jews at their holiest location.



Sources:

Waqf rules: http://www.al-islam.org/islamic-laws-ayatullah-ali-al-husayni-al-sistani/rules-regarding-waqf

Noble Sanctuary: http://www.noblesanctuary.com/AQSAMosque.html

Palestinian women fight Jews on Temple Mount: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/17/world/middleeast/palestinian-women-join-effort-to-keep-jews-from-contested-holy-site.html

Related First One Through articles:

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Sharing the Temple Mount like the Cave of Patriarchs

Five holy sites in the holy land

Palestinians are “desperate”… but for what?

Palestinian Arabs control of Jerusalem for 0.5% of its history 

Divided Cities and Capitals

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem has become the focus of much debate both between religions (Islam and Judaism) and between different segments within a religion (Judaism). At its core, the debate is whether the most fervent believers continue to dictate the religious practices of everyone at the Temple Mount, or whether there is a place for a pluralistic approach to prayer.

 The Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is a 35 acre platform built by the Jewish King Herod over 2000 years ago. The platform held the second Temple, built around 515BCE until it was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE. The site of the two Temples (the first one lasted from around 954BCE to 586BCE), is considered Judaism’s holiest spot. It is now occupied by the Dome of the Rock, a gilded shrine built by Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691, and later richly adorned in 1561 by Suleiman I into the building we recognize now.

Al Aqsa is the only mosque on the Temple Mount. It is considered the third most holy site in Islam. It was built in its current configuration in 754CE, and sits on the far southern edge of the platform, in an area that did not exist until Herod expanded the platform southward 800 years earlier.

 Jews and the Temple Mount

In 1948, five Arab armies invaded Israel in an attempt to destroy the nascent Jewish State. Jordan seized Judea and Samaria and much of eastern Jerusalem including the Old City which contained the Temple Mount. The Jordanians then expelled all Jews from the territory it conquered (including the Old City) and the area later became known as the “West Bank”.

In 1967, the Jordanians and Palestinians attacked Israel again and lost all of the West Bank including the eastern part of Jerusalem. Rather than take full control of the Temple Mount, the Israelis handed religious control of the Temple Mount compound to the Waqf- the Islamic religious order run from Jordan, and assumed security control. The Jordanians continued to prohibit Jews from worshiping anywhere on the Temple Mount, even in areas far removed from the Al Aqsa Mosque, such as areas Muslim families used for picnics and football.

Many Jews are unhappy about the ban on Jews worshiping at their holiest spot on earth. People such as Rabbi Yehuda Glick made many arguments to Israeli authorities to loosen the anti-Jewish restrictions. For those efforts, he was shot in October 2014 by Palestinian Arabs after acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, incited his followers to “defend Al Alqsa by whatever means possible”, even though Jews who visited the Temple Mount never entered, nor attempted to enter, the mosque.

Liberal media outfits branded the Jews who sought the right to pray “right-wing extremists”. The New York Times referred to Glick and others as “agitators”. The “agitators” calls for equal prayer rights were considered outlandish. The opening paragraphs of a 10/30/14 New York Times article:

An Israeli-American agitator who has pushed for more Jewish access and rights
at a hotly contested religious site in Jerusalem was shot and seriously wounded Wednesday night by an unidentified assailant in an apparent assassination attempt.

The shooting of the activist, Yehuda Glick, compounded fears of further violence
in the increasingly polarized holy city, where tensions are already high over fears
of a new Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.”

Glick was not alone in seeking greater religious rights for people in Jerusalem.

 Women of the Wall

The “Western Wall” or the “Kotel” is part of the western retaining wall that Herod built to increase the size of Temple Mount. For many centuries, the Kotel was one of the areas closest to Judaism’s holiest site, which Jews could access. While several other spots on the retaining wall were closer to the site of the Jewish Temples, they were either very small, hard to access or considered unsafe. As such, the Western Wall achieved the status of Judaism’s holiest site because Jews could practically use the site for prayers.

After Israel reunited Jerusalem in 1967, it demolished the buildings in front of the Kotel and made a large plaza where thousands of Jews could pray. It gave religious control of the plaza to the Orthodox rabbinate to oversee religious activities. Those rabbis have restricted prayers to only be in the orthodox tradition.

In 1988, a group of feminist Jewish women who objected to the restrictions of the Orthodox rabbinate, formed a group seeking the right to pray at the Kotel in a manner of their own choosing. The Women of the Wall (WOW) were predominantly “progressive” orthodox women that believed that women wearing a tallit, tefillin and using a Torah were “kosher” actions under orthodoxy, if they prayed only with other women. However, the Orthodox rabbis use a more traditional approach to prayer and have established laws which prohibit those women from praying in their desired fashion at the Kotel.

In October 2014, WOW brought a miniature Torah to the Kotel and held a bat mitzvah on the women’s side of the plaza. The rabbis did not attack the women but stated that they will seek to prevent women from holding such services in the future.

Liberal media such as the New York Times did not refer to these women who broke the law and challenged the religious status quo as “right-wing extremists” or “agitators” but “advocates”. The opening paragraphs of the 10/25/14 article stated:

Members of a group advocating equal prayer rights for women at the Western Wall,
one of Judaism’s holiest sites, held its first full bat mitzvah there Friday,
fooling the strict male Orthodox overseers by sneaking in a miniature Torah scroll
that was read with a magnifying glass for the ceremony.

The action by the group, Women of the Wall, signaled a new phase of activity
after years of legal and religious struggles that have reverberated
among progressive Jews around the world.


The battles for pluralism at Jerusalem’s holy sites by the activists were the same. The actions of both Glick and WOW were non-violent. However the reactions to their activities were polar opposites:

  • the Palestinian authorities incited violence on the Temple Mount; the rabbinate called for stricter law enforcement at the Kotel
  • the world demanded that Israel maintain the status quo of barring all Jewish prayer at their holiest site; the world was silent on how Jewish denominations pray at the Kotel
  • Liberal media described the Temple Mount religious activists as “right wing extremists”; the media lauded the “activity” of “progressive Jews” seeking “equality”
  • Rabbi Glick was shot four times at point blank range and the acting Palestinian leader called the shooter a martyr destined for heaven; the Women of the Wall celebrated the bat mitzvah peacefully and decorum at the Kotel was maintained
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly told the Muslim world that he would maintain the anti-Jewish “status quo” edicts on the Temple Mount; the Jewish State is examining enacting new laws and new spaces along the Kotel for other religious denominations

Does liberal support of activism end when it elicits violence? Should Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who defied Taliban law to not attend school, be described as an “agitator”? The world embraced Malala and awarded her the Nobel Peace Prize in the same month as the Glick shooting and WOW bat mitzvah. Will “progressives” and “liberals” rally to Rabbi Glick and advance the cause for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount? What do you think?


Sources:

Abbas call to defend al aqsa mosque: http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=12915

CAMERA on the Temple Mount: http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=4&x_article=1404

Women of the Wall: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/WOW.html

Women of the wall use torah for bat mitzvah: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/25/world/middleeast/women-hold-western-wall-bat-mitzvah-in-jerusalem.html?_r=0

Shooting of Rabbi Glick: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/30/world/middleeast/right-wing-israeli-activist-shot-jerusalem.html

Malala Nobel prize: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2014/yousafzai-facts.html

Related First One Through articles:

“Extremist” or “Courageous”

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

The Arguments over Jerusalem

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