January 23, 2006

The Wall Has Replaced the Mount

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:23 pm by yisraelmedad


Tisha B’Av this year marks the 32nd time that Jews, in unimpeded fashion, will be able to congregate near the remnants of the Temple Mount and recite the Book of Lamentations and additional traditional elegies. We do so by grace of the liberation and unification of the ancient portion of Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 Six Days War, a war fought, in part, to the tune of Naomi Shemer’s song about “a city with a Wall at its heart”. That victory put an end to the Jordanian refusal to fulfill its cease-fire accords obligations of the which allowed for Jewish access to the Western Wall, as well as acts of ugly desecrations of synagogues and cemeteries.

The contemporary atmosphere at the Western Wall Plaza, especially in the evening, progressively has become almost carnival-like. Many youngsters from abroad, brought there by their group leaders to imbibe the unique spirit of a people mourning the destruction of a religious center, almost 2,000 years ago, take advantage of the occasion to catch up on their summer adventures. For most of them, Tisha B’Av is far less parochial than the Succot Festival with the lulav and ethrog. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the actual reality of what the Temple, sacrifices and all, was, prior to its burning, is far removed from any religious practices they may keep, the fast day usually sears into their minds, as of all Jews, the underpinnings of the Jewish/Zionist divide: the leap from Exile to Redemption, from Diaspora to the Homeland.

Paradoxically, the various Conservative and Reform congregational prayer services there, on Tisha B’Av as well as the Shavuot evening, are even more remarkable. After all, their interpretation of Jewish ritual tends to exclude the “may the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our times” approach, at least on the theological level. But still, even irrationally, no Jew (except those followers of the Leibowitz “Discotel” orientation), can deny the pull of Tisha B’Av at the Wall.

The Wall and what it represents has, from the opposite direction, transcended its religious function and is one of the most powerful of nationalist symbols, uniting Jews from all over, overcoming geographical, cultural and religious barriers. But the Wall, physically and spiritually, is the closest we’ve come over these past three decades and more. The vast majority of Jews cannot even see past the Wall. Many do not even want to presume there is anything behind the Wall. Astonishingly, one of the more outspoken persons on Jewish rights to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount has been Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a Moslem theologian and Imam from Rome, Italy. Israel’s Chief Rabbis Lau and Bakshi-Doron came out rather aggressively last year against those Jews who seek to enter the Temple Mount compound despite the Halachic complexities, on the one hand, and the political ramifications, on the other. The secular party establishment has ignored the issue, aided by a High Court of Justice which, in dozens of appeals, has repeatedly refused to assure basic civil and human rights as set out by the law of the land. For them, only Moslem sensitivity counts and above all, the status quo must be preserved.

But that status quo, as has become evident, solely applies to the Jews. In fact, the status quo doesn’t really exist. The Temple Mount is not a Jewish holy shrine in practice and the Ministry of Religious Affairs has no jurisdiction there. Jewish archeological remains are defaced and covered over. The Jew is but a “visitor” there, with no special standing. The 1994 Peace Treaty with the Hashemite Jordanian Kingdom assigns the monarchy “historic rights”, rights they Jews cannot enjoy. And last year, another mosque hall was inaugurated in the southern subterranean area, used by the Mufti’s gangs in the 1930s as a shooting range and 2,000 years ago as the main entrance route for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish pilgrims, while Jews are denied even the right to utter psalms or other prayers there, even in an individual fashion.

And so, on Tisha B’Av, there will again be mourning and even outright weeping at the Western Wall area. Unfortunately, most of the tears will be for all the wrong reasons. The Wall has replaced the Mount.

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