The Temple Mount Is In Our Hands?

Forty-six years ago today, the 28th day of Iyyar according to the Jewish calendar, Israeli forces liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from the illegal Jordanian occupation. The days were the days of the Six Day War, which broke out because the Egyptians had summarily dismissed the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Sinai peninsula, and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. Thus, the expectation was that if hostilities should break out, these  would be limited to the southern front and to war between Israel and Egypt, as in the 1956 Sinai (Suez) Campaign.

The Shabbat before the war started, I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, on my way to HaKotel Hama’aravi, the Western Wall. I had never been to Jerusalem, nor had I seen pictures of the Old City’s crowded alleyways. The following day, I told my dream to my classmates in cheder – Sunday Religion Classes. It is interesting to note their reaction: “What? You want there to be a war?” (All I had said was, that if war breaks out, maybe we will at last regain control of the Kotel.)

The Six Day War began the very next day – Monday, June 5th, 1967.  Monday was “Games Day” at my school. The entire school used to travel down by coach to the playing fields at Grove Park, in South-East London since, prior to the school’s move to the Barbican, we had no field sports facilities of our own. I remember, as we were waiting for the coaches, I nipped into a nearby newsagents and bought the Evening Standard. IT’S WAR, the banner headline stated, baldly. By the weekend, the war was over and we had, indeed, regained control of the Kotel. I can’t begin to describe the feeling when I knew that I would, at last, have a chance to visit the holy places. That didn’t happen, in fact, for another three and a half years. It wasn’t until the winter of 1970-71 that, on a visit to Israel with my family, I found myself in the alleys of Old Jerusalem and, amazingly, it was all familiar territory. The way from the Jaffa Gate to the Wall was just as it had been in my dream. How shall I describe that first glimpse of the Kotel? Can anyone who has never experienced it imagine the pounding of the heart, the catching of the breath, the pricking of tears in the eyes?

I was a young girl then. Forty-three years have passed since that first visit, during which time, I have visited the Wall many times, always with a feeling of suppressed excitement. It isn’t necessarily a feeling of overwhelming sanctity. It is more a feeling of – Destiny.

Every Israeli is familiar with the famous recording of Motta Gur, commander of the Paratroop Brigade which liberated the Old City of Jerusalem, announcing “The Temple Mount is in our hands.” Thrilling words – and yet, they are only half true.  Soon after the miraculous victory and liberation of the holiest of our holy places, Defence Minister Moshe Dayan handed the keys of the Temple Mount back to the Muslim Waqf, as a gesture of respect for Muslim “rights” at the site. But the Muslims do not show any reciprocal respect. For years now, they have carried out illegal excavations on the Temple Mount, creating underground mosques there and, in the process, throwing out and destroying thousands of tons of rubble, including archaeological remnants from the First and Second Temples, in a deliberate attempt to eradicate all proof of the Jewish connection to the site, which they brazenly deny, claiming we never had a temple there! To this day, Jews cannot pray on the Temple Mount. Even a solitary Jew who dares to stand and pray openly with a siddur  ( סידור – prayer-book, accent on the second syllable), is liable to be arrested by the Israeli Police, for “unruly behaviour liable to cause a breach of the peace” or for “obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duty”! Any hint of a negative Muslim reaction is enough for the police to severely curtail, or even completely prohibit, the presence of Jews on the Temple Mount. Yesterday, for example, the police reaction to riots by Muslims on the Temple Mount was to limit the number of Jewish visitors – on the very eve of the anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem.The police say this is for the safety of the Jewish visitors. But Reason and Justice require that the rioters be punished – not the people they attacked. To all intents and purposes, the Israeli Authorities have awarded the Muslims a “Heckler’s Veto“.

So, while I rejoice at the sight of the tens of thousands of Jews, young and old, marching through the streets of Jerusalem to the gathering-place in the Plaza in front of the Western Wall, there to take part in the traditional Dance of the Flags, it is a joy tinged with sadness at the knowledge that the Liberation of our Holy City is incomplete. I have no wish to prevent Muslims from praying at the Dome of the Rock or at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. I was brought up to respect other people’s religious sensitivities. But I demand the same respect from others – including Muslims.  We are not preventing them from praying on Haram ash-Sharif, as the Temple Mount is known in Arabic. Why, then, should we not pray there too? There is plenty of room on the Holy Mountain for hundreds of thousands of worshippers – and does not the Prophet Isaiah tell us: “Mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people”?

I will leave you with the song “HaKotel” – “The Wall” – performed by the incomparable Ofra Haza, in which a young girl, a paratrooper and a bereaved mother sing, in turn, about what the Wall symbolises for them: “The Wall is hyssop and grief, goes the refrain. “The Wall is lead and blood. There are men with hearts of stone. There are stones with hearts of men”.

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About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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7 Responses to The Temple Mount Is In Our Hands?

  1. mysending says:

    What an extraordinary dream you had as a young girl! I pray that your dream of today should also come true.

  2. cvheerden says:

    I think we all do not realize what is actually going on in the world. Christians and Jews must stand together to protect whats good and lovely on this planet. I have been crying on the temple walls in Jerusalem. I do not know whether Islam is a faith or rather a political system seeking total control. 100.000s of Christians had to leave their homes in Syria, 600.000 Christians had to flee Iraq or be killed, even crucified, Christian kids get taken by the thousands in Indonesia from their family to be trained to spread Jihad. In the name of religious tolerance the world does not step in when Muslim girls get raped and then beaten to death as a punishment? I believe our prayer and our dreams need to be followed by actions of sharing the truth as much as we can.

  3. CATachresis says:

    Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

  4. David says:

    Excellent blog. We haven’t done enough to dispel the Arab-Moslem-“Palestinian” myths about Jerusalem. The world knows about the “controversial” rebuilding of the Hurvah Synagogue by Israel, but not about its destruction by Jordanian/Palestinian thugs. They know about the Arabs killed in the Temple Mount riot in 1990 and about the “provocation” by the Temple Mount Faithful (helped by a report by a self-hating Israeli judge) but not about the fact that the rioters brought the stones with them for a pre-meditated riot. They know about building of Jewish neighbourhoods in “Arab” Jerusalem, but not about the expulsion of Jews by Jordanian thugs from the eastern areas of a city that has had an absolute Jewish majority since 1872.

    And all of that done by the people who follow the teachings of a man who at the age of 25 married a rich 40 year old woman to get his hands on her money and then at the age of 53 showed his true colours by marrying a nine-year-old girl. And these are the people who are trying to spread their “religion” to the rest of us!

  5. Pingback: Rant of the Week | THE VIEW FROM THE PALACE

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