Wednesday, September 15, 2021

  • Wednesday, September 15, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon

Right on the heels of Rabbi Eric Yoffie's dire warning about Jews worshipping in groups on the Temple Mount, Haaretz published another.

Anshel Pfeffer's article is accurate when he sticks to the facts, perhaps the best one yet in secular media.

There has been a gradual change over the past two years, under the auspices of the police. Jewish communal prayer, with a minyan of at least 10 men, has become a regular, twice-daily occurrence, during the four hours in the morning and one in the early afternoon, five times a week, when Jews are allowed onto the Mount. [It's been more than two years - EoZ.]

I joined the pilgrims six times in the two weeks before Rosh Hashanah. Each time the groups entered on the same route, which takes about 45 minutes, without any noticeable friction with the Muslims there.

In my visits with the pilgrims last month, I failed to meet many of the bitter fanatics I expected to find. Instead, I met a variety of Israelis with diverse reasons for making the pilgrimage. Some harbored political and nationalistic motives. Others dream of building a Third Temple in our lifetime. But many see Temple Mount in much more abstract terms and just want to be there, without a clear objective.

One said he felt he was standing “at the window of yearning.” Another described “trying to touch a distant point of sanctity.” And others didn’t have any high words, but gave the impression of not being activists or dreamers, but simply wanting to break the shackles of what for many Israelis has become the limited and sterile experience of established routine worship within synagogues.

For them, Temple Mount has simply become the place to “visit God.”

After a few minutes walk to the easternmost point on the Mount, the group stops, with the sealed twin entrances of Mercy Gate behind them, and begin praying for about 15 minutes. It’s the standard Orthodox version, beginning with the blessings before kriyat shema, then amida (silent prayer) and the Chazan’s recitation following it, in rather unorthodox conditions.

Unusually, the Chazan reads the blessings in a muted tone, and everyone – men and women, Haredim, religious Zionists and the secular – bunch around him to hear and answer “amen.” Most make sure not to sway in prayer and if one of them does so, a police officer may gently advise them not to. But make no mistake: this is Jewish communal prayer on Temple Mount.

There is no agreed version on when the police began allowing the prayers: shaharith in the morning and minhah in the afternoon. .... In recent months, there have even been some reports about it in the news that didn’t create any waves.

The police began allowing the group to stop at that point for longer periods of time – enough not only to pray, but also for a short dvar Torah (sermon) – before asking them to walk on. Also, the Waqf custodians from the Muslim religious trust, who know everything that takes place in the Al-Aqsa compound, seem to be silently acquiescing.

On some days, they were nowhere to be seen around the group; on a couple of mornings, a Waqf monitor in an official white shirt and with a walkie-talkie could be seen watching from afar. It’s unclear why they haven’t vocally protested this ongoing erosion of the status quo. There’s now a fact on the ground. Jews are praying together on Temple Mount.

It’s hard to get reliable figures on the number of pilgrims, though they’re clearly increasing. One of the pilgrim groups released a statement recently claiming that in 5781 (the Jewish year that just ended), 25,581 Jews prayed on Temple Mount – a 13 percent rise over the previous year. They also claim that there’s been a dramatic jump in recent months, after the coronavirus lockdown ended.

What’s more interesting than their numbers is the sheer variety of the pilgrims. The pilgrimage used to be mainly a religious-Zionist phenomena, but today you can see Haredim (who say they have privately received the blessing of their rabbis), secular Jews and Jewish tourists from overseas too. It’s a more popular movement.

In recent weeks, I’ve met people who told me they go up on their birthdays and their parents’ Yahrzeit (memorial day). Like pilgrimages to the graves of ancient sages, Temple Mount is becoming part of a more traditional and less political act of worship.

You can also see it in the attitude of the police, who used to be much rougher with the pilgrims. Now, at the blessing for the ill at the end of the prayer, officers will join and ask for their relatives to be mentioned as well, or even for a blessing for themselves.

What has helped popularize the pilgrimage is the lack of normal Orthodox boundaries. There’s no segregation between male and female pilgrims, and there’s no religious judgmentalism. Despite the injunctions at the entrance to enter only “in purity” and “out of fear of the temple,” no one tells men or women that they need to cover their heads or checks your footwear.

Surprised at the lack of censoriousness, I asked one of the activists if he wasn’t bothered by bare heads and leather boots. “Who cares?” he shrugs. “The important thing is that you’re here.”
But then he goes off into the same idiotic territory as Yoffie, with faux concern about how the new status quo has the potential of blowing up. 
Temple Mount hasn’t just been the source of strife and bloodshed between Jews and Palestinians over the past century. Going back, deep into Jewish history, it was also the cause of schism and murderous violence among Jews themselves. And as it regains its status as a place for Jewish pilgrimage, it could become one again. Temple Mount will not remain silent.
I have some news for Haaretz: The Muslim fanatics who oppose any Jewish presence on the Temple Mount are just as adamant that the Kotel be Jew-free as well. 

In May, the Egypt-based Al-Azhar Al-Sharif media center started a campaign that the "Al-Buraq Wall" - the Kotel - "is a pure Islamic endowment" and "an integral part of Al-Aqsa Mosque."

This has been the basic Islamic position for over a hundred years. 

There are angry articles in Arabic media not only about "settlers storming Al Aqsa" but also about large gatherings of Jews at the Kotel, about archaeological digs anywhere within a mile of the Temple Mount, even about a blue sofa that some Jews brought outside the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. 

Anything Jews do can be a "provocation." That doesn't mean that Jews should follow the dictates of the fanatics who are looking for excuses to start a holy war. 

I get the impression that the mainstream media, with hundreds of reporters around Jerusalem, are embarrassed to have missed this story for years, a story in the change of the status quo that they were blind to. Now that it is out, they want to hang onto their old assumptions that any Jew who openly prays on the Temple Mount is a powder keg. 

These enlightened, non-racist reporters assume that if Palestinian Arabs manage to start an uprising using Jews as an excuse, it is the Jews' fault. Muslims are expected to be irrational and fanatic, and they aren't responsible for their violence that these liberal reporters are expecting.

Here we see that most Muslims don't care about groups of Jews praying on the Temple Mount in an area that Muslims rarely visit. They aren't acting in the way the Jewish liberals expect and are literally encouraging. 

The story does not fit the narrative on either the Jewish or Muslim sides, and the media hates when their narrative is shown to be false. 

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