Jewish date: 1 ’Av 5771 (Parashath Devarim).
Today’s holidays: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh (Judaism), the Three Weeks/the Nine Days (Judaism), Feast Day of Alphonsus Liguori (Roman Catholicism), Ramāḍan (Islam), Lammas/Festival of Love (Ritual of the Elements) (Thelema), Lughnasadh (Neopaganism), Feast Day of Drug Side-effects Day (St. Lobster Boy’s Day) (Church of the SubGenius).
You will remember I went up on the Temple Mount on Israeli Independence Day (6 ’Iyyar 5771/10 May 2011). I went up to the Temple Mount again today (following a call for Jews to ascend today), and I want to get what happened down on paper (so to speak) while the experience is still fresh in my memory. I have posted every photograph I took (all 117, including two really bad ones) on Facebook. I apologize that you have to view all the photographs on Facebook; Blogger is not being cooperative about pictures today.
Unlike my first ascent, in which I pretended to be a tourist, I went openly as an Orthodox Jew. The point off this was to send the message to politicians and the police that the Temple Mount matters to Orthodox Jews. On my first ascent, I was waved through quickly and was allowed to act with little interference. On this trip, the discrimination against Orthodox Jews on the Temple Mount which I heard so much about reared its ugly head. Muslims reportedly often have an inferiority complex and need to suppress the religious activities of non-Muslims in order to feel superior. (People who act like this in other contexts are conventionally called “bullies” or worse things.) In this case, they try to suppress Jewish religious activity on the Temple Mount, so they can feel superior to Jews and dissociate the Temple Mount from Judaism. I was not at the receiving end of the worst abuses I have heard of (such as being dragged off), but what I suffered was blatant discrimination. I was not allowed to take any Jewish ritual materials up on the Temple Mount; they had a box where these could be left. I was told that I could not bring water up on the Temple Mount. I noted that other people were permitted to take water with them, I was told that they were to drink it before they ascended. (All who believe this, stand on your heads.) I had to show my identity document and answer questions on what I intended to do up there (looking around and photographing things). They did not approve of my plan to ask the Waqf official who was to follow me around questions about Islam. I was also told not to pray up on the Temple Mount. (All who believe I actually obeyed this directive, also stand on your heads.)
By the way, do not try to photograph the police. They do not like it.
On the Temple Mount, I was followed around by a policeman and a Waqf official. I was not allowed to walk as fast as I would have liked. I was told not to photograph people and to keep away from a certain mosque. Over the course of about 40 minutes, I circumnavigated the entire Temple Mount clockwise, leading my followers across terrain that was not always the nicest to traverse. To be frank about it, this was fun, because I could drag two people getting in the way of my free practice of religion all over the place; as long as they wanted to keep up the pretense that I was somehow not to be trusted on my own, they were going to have to go wherever I went. (Next time I go up, I may deliberately choose an unpleasant route.)
Conversation was made difficult, because the policeman spoke to me in a rapid version of Hebrew. In the United States there is a cliché of people speaking to non-English speakers loudly and slowly. Over here, I see the wisdom of this, because this is the way you want a language you have trouble understanding spoken to you.
If you were expecting much different physically up there, think again. There was not much new up there other than more Islamic prayer rugs scattered about. I concentrated my photographic efforts on graffiti, which my entourage found odd. (On the other hand, I never have heard of anyone else deliberately looking for religious graffiti, so maybe it is odd.) Most of it was in Arabic. (Those who read about my first visit to the Temple Mount will find no surprise there.) And there was a huge amount of it. A little of it was in English, one was in Hebrew, and one was an E-mail address. I am still disgusted at the amount of graffiti up there. I also noted up there many plants growing between blocks where they could easily be removed. The amount of rubble and blocks lying around has not changed. If the Muslims treat what is purportedly their third holiest site this way, I hate to think of what a dump Mecca is.
In summary, the Waqf, aided and abetted by the police, is a pain in the neck when it comes to Orthodox Jewish visitors, and the Temple Mount is still in a state of disgrace. I encourage all Jews to visit the Temple Mount and be a reciprocal pain in the neck to the Waqf and the police; this is the only way that politicians can be expected to learn anything.