Jewish date: 13 ’Iyyar 5771 (Parashath Beḥuqqothay).
Today’s holidays: Day 28 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Laval homeboy (Church of the SubGenius).
I am painfully aware that I still have a backlog of things to say about Pesaḥ, but there is something else which is more important to discuss sooner.
On Israeli Independence Day (6 ’Iyyar 5771 AM, 10 May 2011 CE), I had the opportunity to visit the Temple Mount for the first time. This is the place YHWH, God of Israel, designated for His Temple where the First and Second Temples actually stood, and the most important place in Judaism. The experience was such that my emotions are still going strong. What I am writing is not just a report for Divine Misconceptions, but an attempt to deal with what I experienced. Some of the crimes perpetuated by Muslims up there, such as the wanton destruction of anything of Jewish origin and dumping of artifacts as if they were trash, have been discussed by others. But not all aspects of Muslim behavior up there are well publicized.
I have heard much about observant Jews being treated shabbily when visiting the Temple Mount, not being allowed to bring Jewish ritual objects with them or pray on the Temple Mount; they are also subject to arbitrary restrictions on visiting hours and harassment from the Waqf and police to keep them from praying. And yes, people, this is a blatant violation of freedom of religion. I therefore disguised myself as a tourist, tucking my ṣiṣiyyoth into my pants, not wearing a kippah (but still wearing a hat), and carrying my American passport instead of my Israeli identity document. I also spoke with a more exaggerated Southernish accent.
The disguise was more of a success than I expected. Nobody asked to see any identification. Nobody stopped me from going anywhere or doing anything. A few guards spoke to me a bit, mostly to ask where I was from, which I quite honestly answered as Charleston, South Carolina. One man did ask if I was a Muslim, to which I replied, “Is it required?” The worst I got was that I was asked to leave when visiting hours for non-Muslims were about over. For the most part, I was ignored.
When I say that nobody stopped me from going anywhere or doing anything, I really mean it. I avoided doing any “forbidden” activities in front of other people, but no one made any effort to follow me or stop me from doing anything. The first of these “forbidden” activities was prayer, which I did rather a lot. While I was there, someone who will only be referred to here as “Oscar” felt emboldened to take further action. Given that the Torah prohibits trees on the Temple Mount, Oscar tore twigs off of trees—four times. Oscar even took a rock and scratched “THE DOME OF THE ROCK WILL FALL” on a green electrical box. No one noticed. No one stopped him. And he left without anyone realizing what he did. Oscar feels tempted to cause even greater damage the next time he goes.
|Oscar’s faint handiwork|
The Waqf should also be ashamed of themselves for how they treat the Temple Mount. One often sees pretty pictures of their prize structures up there, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain. But being ritually impure from the dead, I am severely restricted to where I can go up there. I thus stayed to the edges of the Temple Mount which were added on by Herod the Great, and what I saw there was not so pretty. In many places there are blocks, rubble, and pieces of columns lying around. (I will have to defer to historians and archaeologists on how ancient any of them are.) Many of the staircases on the edges are completely lacking in guardrails, making them very dangerous to anyone who dares ascend them. Boys play ball all over the place, and no one suggests to them that this is in any way inappropriate.
And then there is the graffiti. Oscar should have not bothered vandalizing that electrical box. (Or he should have at least written something true yet disgraceful about Muḥammad’s sex life.) I discovered rather a lot of graffiti along the edges (much more than I took pictures of)— and most of it in Arabic and in areas more favored by Muslim visitors.
If a recurring scribble in there looks at all familiar to you, that is because it is Allah (الله), the name of the God of Islam. The most likely scenario is that Muslims did this, and if they did not, the perpetrators were braver than Oscar and still got away with it. In any case, the Waqf has done nothing to remove such blemishes.
But, wait! One might object that the amount of graffiti is not so unusual for such a holy site. Which is why I deliberately went looking for graffiti at the Western Wall compound afterwards for comparison. I had to deliberately look for it to find it at all.
There was some assorted Hebrew graffiti on the pay phones and an electrical box next to them. In one of the arched-over areas which has been turned into an area for study and prayer, someone scratched his name in Hebrew. And on a pole about as far as one can get from the Western Wall in the compound as one can get, someone attached a sticker in support of Gil‘adh Shalliṭ. That was it. The vast majority of the Western Wall compound was graffiti-free. If there are people attempting vandalism at the Western Wall, they are doing a crummy job, at least at keeping the vandalism visible and lasting. As opposed to the Temple Mount, on which one can find graffiti without even trying, and the Waqf does not care enough to remove it.
So the situation is that the Waqf is doing a miserable job at preserving the sanctity of the Temple Mount and treating visibly observant Jews badly. I am angry, and I need to fight back. One thing I probably ought to avoid doing is to commit vandalism; that is immature and not likely to make anything better. I also want to avoid doing anything violent; the goals are proper treatment of the Temple Mount and Jewish religious freedom, not hurting Muslims. What I want, as a first step towards rebuilding the Temple, is an end to discrimination against observant Jews on the Temple Mount. For too long the government has attempted to appease Muslims by turning a blind eye to the destruction of historical evidence and letting Jews be treated as second-class citizens in their own holiest place, and this has never worked. Please notice the Arab-Israeli War is nowhere near a close. The only way politicians can be expected to do the right thing is if the people demand it from them. And so now I have to figure out how to create a grassroots civil rights movement. In the meantime, I encourage every Jew possible to visit the Temple Mount to let the politicians and police know that this site is important to Jews. Thank you.
WARNING: Information in this essay on how to infiltrate the Temple Mount is presented so that observant Jews can visit without being harassed. Under no circumstances should it be taken as an endorsement to act foolishly. A visit to the Temple Mount is not a game one plays with the Muslims, but rather a very serious matter. Muslims may be the enemy, but they have feelings and have been known at times to act violently in response to real or imagined provocations. Oscar and I may have gotten away with what we did only by the protection of YHWH. I cannot guarantee that other visitors will be similarly ignored, so do not assume you can simply do what you want up there. Be very, very careful and make sure you do not get caught!
UPDATE: You can now see every photo I have taken on the Temple Mount on my Facebook account. See Temple Mount graffiti 2011-05-10, Kids playing ball on the Temple Mount 2011-05-10, Temple Mount desolation 2011-05-10, and Temple Mount anything else 2011-05-10. And, yes, I know the photo of Oscar’s graffiti is poor. My camera’s battery ran out, and I had to use my cell phone to take pictures. Consider it an incentive to visit the Temple Mount yourself.