Wednesday, May 17, 2017

While everyone else was worried about the perceived status of a retaining wall, Michael Miller was more concerned with a different piece of Jerusalem real estate, namely the real estate that retaining wall is meant to protect.

Michael wrote:

“Even he sadly make the most common, serious mistake: the Kotel is the holiest site in Judaism, totally disregarding the Temple Mount. We've truly forgotten about the Beit HaMikdash.”

The “he” referred to in this comment was no less than Ambassador David Friedman.

Friedman’s first trip to Israel in his official capacity as American ambassador to Israel began with a visit to the Western Wall. “Well, it was a long trip,” said Friedman, flanked by his wife and daughter. “We’re a bit tired, but we wanted to come straight to the holiest place in the entire Jewish world, the Kotel HaMaaravi, the Western Wall, straight from the airport.”

Miller, one of the admins of the Facebook group, Take Back the Temple Mount, despaired that Friedman, an orthodox Jew, would publically refer to the Wall as the holiest Jewish site “in the entire Jewish world,” since this is a false and misleading statement. Yes, Friedman meant well, but it’s a statement that stains the honor of the true owner of that title of holiest Jewish place, the Temple Mount, and effectively relegates it to the ash heap. Friedman’s statement tells the world, “We don’t care about the Mount, just let us keep our remnant of a retaining wall and we’ll keep quiet about the rest—keep our heads down, like good little Jews.”

And of course, since this symbolic visit to the not holiest place in the entire Jewish world was followed by the fuss with the consulate figure, the probable Obama holdover who said that the Western Wall doesn’t belong to Israel (thank you UNESCO), the Temple Mount got completely lost and buried in the shuffle. No one thought about it.

No one thought about the Temple Mount.

Not Friedman. Not the Israeli organizers of Trump’s trip who took umbrage at being told they don’t have ownership of the Wall.

Because why worry about the Temple Mount when you can worry about a fragment of one of its retaining walls?

(That’s what the Western Wall is, in case you didn’t know it, or haven’t figured it out from the preceding paragraphs of this blog piece—a partial remnant of one of the Temple’s retaining walls.)

To be perfectly clear, in no way is the Western Wall the holiest place in the entire Jewish world.

Only the Temple Mount has that honor.

The Temple Mount was built on Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

It’s the place we turn toward as we pray.

It’s where the Cohen Gadol, the High Priest, prayed for the Jewish nation every Yom Kippur.

The Temple Mount is not just our holiest place, rather, it is the very epicenter of the Jewish universe.

And presently, we Jews are not free to pray there, for complicated reasons that make absolutely no sense. We recaptured our Temple Mount in 1967. But then that shtunk, Moshe Dayan, gave custodianship back to the Waqf, the Muslim Authority.

He had no right to do that and in so doing, he blackened his name forever.

Back in 1967, we still knew what was precious. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem tells the story in his autobiography, With Might and Strength,* in such a way that you can actually feel the power and majesty of that moment: the moment when we took back our holiest place, the Temple Mount:

I began running toward Lions’ Gate. The battalion of paratroopers was spread out on both sides of the road, because artillery fire was raining down incessantly on the road itself. Stranded at the entrance to Lions’ Gate was a bus engulfed in flames; one of our tanks was also stuck at the gate.

Suddenly, I heard the battalion commander shouting at me, “Rabbi Goren, you’ll get yourself killed. Come with us and stick close to the wall.” 
I felt as if I were flying. I walked out into the middle of the road. To my right, paratroopers from one company hugged the wall, and to my left, paratroopers from another company hugged the other.

“Go to Rabbi Goren and force him against the wall,” I heard the battalion commander ordering his company commander.

“I am the highest ranking officer here,” I told them. “Don’t force me against anything.”
I took [my father in-law’s shofar] and rushed back in the direction of the Rockefeller Museum, and from there I began to climb toward the Old City.

According to Jewish law, when Jews go out to battle they blow trumpets or shofars to assure their victory, as the Torah states: “And if you go to war in your land, against the enemy that oppresses you, then you shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and you shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies.” 
It was for this reason that I had brought a shofar with me. The moment we drew close to the gate, I began blowing the shofar, sounding it loudly in this war for the liberation of Jerusalem. I continued to blow the shofar repeatedly until we reached the truck that was stuck at the gate, blocking the entry to the Temple Mount. I quickly climbed up onto the tank and slid down the other side, finding myself at the entrance to the Temple Mount. 
As I made my way forward, I began to utter a prayer in between shofar blasts and shouted to the soldiers, “In the name of God, take action and succeed. In the name of God, liberate Jerusalem, go up and be successful.” 
I kept shouting the entire time, until we were right on top of the Temple Mount, where I found Motta Gur standing surrounded by his soldiers. I had prepared a proclamation which I then recited on the Temple Mount: 
In honor of the liberation of the Old City, the Kotel, and the Temple Mount from the enemy legions, on 28th Iyar, 5727 on the Jewish calendar. Israeli soldiers, beloved of the nation, decorated with courage and victory, may God be with you valiant heroes. I am speaking to you from the plaza of the Kotel, the remnant of our holy Temple. (Comfort my people, comfort them, says your God.)

Here Goren goes on to tell how the area was administered in the early days after the war. Sifrei Torah were brought in and a study hall was established.

I appointed ten officers to be in charge of the Temple Mount and gave them armbands bearing the words, “Temple Mount Officer.” They controlled the area throughout that period, which lasted about 40 days after we liberated the Temple Mount, until Dayan went and transferred it to the Muslims.

One day, Dayan came to me and told me that I had to pack up and leave the Midrasha [a study hall that Goren had established on the Temple Mount], take out all the books and everything we had put there, and reassign the officers, because he had handed control of the Temple Mount to the Waqf. Those words were like a clap of thunder on a clear day.

Why did Dayan give the Temple Mount to the Waqf? For one thing, he, being a secular man, did not see the significance of this holy place. When the IDF was contemplating its recapture, Dayan was said to remark, "What do I need all this Vatican for?"

Dayan? As he handed over the keys to the Waqf, he was thinking more about the Arabs than his own people. Did he think losing the Jews' holy place would be too much of a blow to their Arab Muslim manhood for them to survive?

A misplaced mercy?

Surely misplaced. Because all these years later, our rights to our holy places and to Jerusalem itself are in danger. It is because of Dayan and our lack of will to fight him. It is our willingness then and now to turn our back on the Temple Mount that is the beginning of all that causes us to slowly lose hold of everything else. If we won’t fight for the jewel in the crown, who will see us as a worthy contender to the crown itself?

It’s an affront to God, what we did then. What we do now. He, God, gave us these beautiful gifts and made miracles happen that these gifts would be restored to us after thousands of years of loss and so much blood spilled and then we simply gave back the keys and said, “Here. You take them.”

A kind of shrug.

That is what has led to Friedman and everyone else saying the Wall is our holiest place, because we've already given up on the Temple Mount. It doesn't even rent space in our conscious mind.

That is how we cherish our holy places. And if this is how we cherish our holy places, what then will be the fate of Jerusalem?

(And do we even deserve to have the American embassy relocated there?)

*With Might and Strength: An Autobiography
Rabbi Shlomo Goren
Edited by Ari Rath
Hardcover: 457 pages
Publisher: Maggid (July 3, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1592644090

ISBN-13: 978-1592644094

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