Jerusalem, above all joys

The debate about moving the American embassy to Jerusalem emphasizes, once again, the lack of comprehension of the importance of Jerusalem to the Nation of Israel.

The destruction of the Jewish Temple meant the destruction of the most holy, pivotal location to the Jewish religion, culture and people. Destruction of the Temple was an attempt to destroy the Jewish nation – take out the cultural linchpin, the one element that ties everyone together and everything will fall apart.

It is written:
As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,
so is the land of Israel the navel of the world…
situated in the centre of the world,
and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,
and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,
and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,
and the ark in the centre of the holy place,
and the Foundation Stone before the holy place,
because from it the world was founded.
(Roman-Era Midrash Tanchuma)

It is believed that the Foundation Stone is the foundation God used to create the world. Around this stone the Temple was built and within the Temple, on the Foundation Stone, the Ark of the Covenant was placed. This is the source of the holiness of the Temple and its importance to Judaism.

The image people around the world today have of the Temple Mount is that of the golden domed mosque which was built on the ruins of the Temple in 691 C.E. Since that time the Dome of the Rock has been a holy place for the Moslem people – although not central to their religion. Considered the third holiest location in Islam, it is not mentioned a single time in the Koran.

It was once common practice for a conquering people to build holy sites on top of existing holy places. Historically this was a successful way to both show domination of the location as well as a way to incorporate the local population in the new religion.

The Temple has been central to the Jewish people since the construction of the first Temple (957 B.C.E.). To this day, Jews around the world pray facing the direction of the site of the Temple Mount.

The Kotel is the Western Wall of the Temple which remains standing (an external supporting wall). The wall is so important that it has become in Jewish consciousness THE Wall. It needs no other name. Millions of Jews come to the Kotel every year, it is always open and people can be found there, every day, 24/7, around the clock. The Kotel is never empty and it is in fact one of the most frequented locations in the world, seeing approximately 11 million guests each year.

Jews in exile in Babylon are described in Psalm 137 as stubbornly remembering the full glory of Jerusalem, explaining to their captors that they would always look towards the holy city: “May my tongue cleave to my mouth, if I ever think not of thee, if I ever prize not Jerusalem above all joys!”

To this day, in Jewish weddings, before the couple is formally married, the groom proclaims this statement before the guests and breaks a cup with his foot to symbolize sorrow for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

On what is supposed to be the happiest day in the life of the couple, they stop, putting sorrow and longing for the Temple first. This is a powerful statement.

The 9th day of the month of Av (Jewish calendar) is the day when both the first and second Temples were destroyed, the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E. It is a day of fasting and mourning for religious Jews around the world.

Thinking about the meaning of Tisha B’Av, the day of mourning, I am beginning to see, (or maybe feel is a better word) that this is symbolic of all our problems – Israel’s and those of the world.

The Foundation Stone of the world, the site of the Temple mount, is dominated by a mosque. It is known that active destruction of antiquities has been occurring since the Waqf was given control of the Temple Mount. Dr. Mordechai Kedar, (Department of Arabic, Bar-Ilan University) explains: “These actions are being carried out in the context of a practice known in Arabic as Tams al-ma’alem, an expression that means ‘erasing the signs’ in the sense of destroying the relics of all cultures that preceded Islam.”

Jews are allowed to enter the site of the Temple but ironically are not allowed to pray there. In fear of Moslem rioting, to avoid violence, Jews who enter the Temple Mount must not be heard praying or show any signs of prayer. If they bow to the Holy of Holies, they are escorted out of the site.

Imagine having other people in your home who, because they had been there for so long, you do not attempt to evict, but only request to share the space with them. Imagine being told that you are allowed to stand outside the back door, outside the cellar, that you can watch while others enter and leave, doing as they please in your home…

Secular Jews do not fast on Tisha B’Av and though most Israelis have visited the Kotel, only a minority has actually ascended to the Temple Mount. The drifting away from putting Jerusalem above all other joys has significance that surpasses religion, encompasses history and has direct influence on our future.

The spiritual explanation says that ramifications of being disconnected or even barred from the source of the holiness of the world deeply impacts not only on the Jewish people but the entire planet as well.

History says that the cultural significance of Jerusalem and yearning for the Temple was a key factor in keeping the Jewish people intact over the centuries. When other nations rose and fell, the Nation of Israel remained, stubborn in their focus, insisting on returning to Israel and to Jerusalem – no matter how long it took or how much suffering was experienced along the way.

The Temple is what ties us to Jerusalem and Jerusalem is what ties us to Israel. Without either of these, we risk losing all.

This is an issue of priorities, of belonging, respect and freedom. These are magnified to extreme intensity here, at the navel of the world, but they have direct impact on the lives of all people, everywhere.

America under Obama, with the support of the UN and their latest anti-Israel resolution has done much to damage Israel’s connection to Jerusalem. America under Trump can help amend this. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is a good start.


Is the Israeli Government Empowering Islam’s Disregard for History?

“Israel is not the problem on the Temple Mount; Israel is the solution,”Bibi Netanyahu said back in October 2015. “We’re keeping the status quo, we’re the only ones who will do it, and we will continue to do this in a responsible, serious manner.”

Over six months after those tense fall and winter months, when it looked like all was about to unravel under an increasing terror wave from Palestinian radicals, the spring seemed to bring an odd calmness.  Even the Temple Mount, the supposed heart of the conflict saw a growing amount of Jews being allowed up.

To many, the Prime Minister’s approach seemed to have worked and yet we see, like always what the real reason is for the reprieve in Palestinian violence in connection to Jerusalem.

With the help of Regavim and other activists, a situation came to light concerning the Muslim Waqf’s intention to alter the status quo by harming the walls of the Temple Mount in order to facilitate increased access for Muslim worshipers in time for Ramadan in June. The site in question is on the Mount’s South side and would irrevocably damage a declared antiquities site.


In March 2016 the Israel Antiquities Authority  filed a lawsuit against the Muslim Waqf in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court that petitioned the court  to give a permanent injunction prohibiting the continued work of the illegal site and restitution.  The injunction was in fact granted, yet one day later the Prime Minister’s office intervened and the injunction was lifted.

This is Bibi’s style.  He talks tough and behind the scenes gives the Palestinian Arabs some gifts in order to remain calm. This particular gift is set to be explosive and would be the first time since the Waqf dug up ancient artifacts on the Temple Mount that they would be allowed to completely alter the status quo.

In early May the Antiquities Authority sent a message to the court insisting the government appeared set on settling the matter through discussion with the Waqf.  In fact, the political echelon admitted that they wanted time to have a dialogue and asked for an extension that would lead until July.

“In the meantime, and during the period in which you are active on the political level and try to finish the matter through dialogue with the Waqf, the  illegal construction at the archaeological site continues, in violation of the order to stop work against them with total disregard for their obligations according to the law and instead attempt to talk with them,” lawyers for the Antiquities Authority charged in  written statement. “The construction works are expected to be completed at the archaeological site with the start of Ramadan in about two weeks. The experience of our client says that as soon as work on the toilets will begin, it will be difficult for future enforcement actions.”

This week right wing NGO Regavim issued the following the statement: “This week, we issued an urgent letter to the prime minister, the mayor of Jerusalem and Minister Regev that the (IAA) is under her wing. We are also preparing a petition on the matter to the Supreme Court. This destruction of Jewish History can not continue on the Temple Mount.”

The question of status quo is constantly pushed to frame actions by Jews on the Temple Mount as encroachment, while actions by Muslims and their supporters are merely restoring that which the Jewish presence altered.  The real question for the government is at what cost do we incur by letting the Muslim Waqf radically change our holiest site in exchange for some quiet. Giving up on the Temple Mount sets the stage for the rest of Jerusalem and so forth. The government would be wise to admit to itself and to the public that the farce of a “status quo” is just that, a lie and if the Waqf cannot uphold its part of the agreement, we no longer need to as well.