Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Reflecting a Bit on My First Aliyah li'Har HaBayit, Ascending The Temple Mount

So far I haven't gotten any pictures of myself on Har HaBayit, but I do have this one of us waiting for permission to enter, taken by Yehuda Glick, a well-known Har HaBayit activist.

photo by Yehuda Glick
Most of us photographed here are from Shiloh, which was the Jewish National and Religious Capital and resting place (location) of the Mishkan, Tabernacle for 369 years. That's before Jerusalem was declared the Capital of the Jewish Kingdom of King David. Rachel Sela of Shiloh leads groups of women, in Hebrew, on the Temple Mount. She kept us fascinated with her explanations of the Holiness and history of the site and how to behave and where it is permitted to go. Afterwards we celebrated with a festive meal in the "Hebron Quarter" which is a section of what is inaccurately known as the "Moslem Quarter." This is where many Jews from Hebron had lived. Please contact me if you'd like to join her.

Nowadays women are as active in the movement to bring more Jewish life and ritual to the Temple Mount as men. But it wasn't always so.

My husband was drafted  by Menachem Ben-Yashar, of Massuot Yitzchak, to the very small ranks of Jews who defied the authorities to go up on the Temple Mount a short time after our aliyah, move, to Israel, September, 1970.  Yes, exactly forty-four 44 years ago.

In those days, there were only men among the activists. Menachem came to speak to my husband about it, not to speak to both of us. It just wasn't a "woman's issue." Actually, it never occurred to me that I, too, should go up. They'd frequently end up being beaten and dragged by the police and even getting stitched up in the Emergency Ward. Obviously, that wasn't my "thing."

my husband's blog banner

Over the decades, things changed, and women did get involved, but I didn't. It wasn't because I disagreed with the rights of Jews to ascend the Temple Mount to pray; I firmly believed and believe that we should be there. A very small portion of the area is of such holiness that we shouldn't enter. And I also believe that it would be better that we do enter and build the Third Temple than allow the Muslim Arabs and Christian tourists to defile it.

Christian tourists enter freely, while we wait.
There's lots of space and rubble, even close to the Holy of Holies where the Muslims built their "Dome of the Rock."

Most of what is today the Temple Mount is the Herodian Extension, which doesn't have the highest level of holiness. What surprised me was how small our restricted area actually is.

I only began thinking seriously about my own aliyah l'Har HaBayit in recent years. My life has been full of other things and politically with other battles. About a year ago, Rachel and I spoke about it, and she was so shocked that I hadn't yet gone up. For younger women, raised in a more feminist time, when women do and learn many of the things men do, it's considered natural for women to ascend to Judaism's holiest spot. I felt rather silly trying to explain why it had taken me so many decades to do what felt so natural once I got up there.

One of the topics she mentioned as we walked around was the holiness of the Kotel, the Western Wall. As readers of my blogs know, I can't relate to the worship of the place and the custom to leave what I call "letters to Santa Claus."

Glimpse of the Kotel while walking up to the Temple Mount

Rachel pointed out that the "Western Wall" which Chazal, our Sages, refer to is not that Herodian built  outer wall, but the western wall of the Temple Courtyard.

Today that holy wall no longer remains. The holiness of the popular Kotel is the same as for any Jerusalem synagogue. And when praying there, we must turn slightly to the left to face the Kodesh Kodeshim, Holy of Holies.

Two final points to finish this post:

  • I am very glad that I finally ascended The Temple Mount. It felt right and good to do so.
  • But I'm outraged with every fiber of my body and soul that it is forbidden for Jews to pray there by the State of Israel!

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