Saturday evening June 4th begins the holiday of Yom Yerushalayim, the anniversary of the day, during the Six-Day-War in 1967, when the IDF re-took Jerusalem. This day is celebrated because it was the first time since 1948, the holy city of Jerusalem was united and Jews were once again permitted to go to Mount Moriah. Also known as the Temple Mount, this is the holiest site in the Jewish faith, it’s where the two Jewish Temples to God stood.
Today the Muslims claim that the Temple Mount is still theirs and that there was never a Jewish temple on top of Mount Moriah. Any claim the Temple Mount is anything but Jewish is simply propaganda that ignores the fact that the ancient Greeks, Romans, Christians, and even the ancient Muslims reported that both Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were the property of the Jewish people. But, I am not going to argue historical facts. Nor will I point to the fact that Christians across the world believe that Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers on Mount Moriah. I am not going to argue history, or tradition. Nor will I joke about the the fact that when Muslims in Israel face Mecca to pray, they are mooning the Temple Mount (although it’s true).
The reason I don’t have to argue about what was atop Mount Moriah is because I’ve been there. And as corny as it may sound to anyone who has never been there, I felt the presence of God at the Temple Mount. I didn’t get to go to the top of the mount, but I did get to pray at the western wall which was part of the retaining wall built by Herod to protect the collapse of the mount.
All my life I had this overwhelming desire to go to Jerusalem and especially the Temple Mount. I never understand why I had that urge until I stood in its presence a few years ago when my family and I finally took a trip to Israel. (My wife had been before, but it was the first time for the rest of us.)
Before we went to Jerusalem, our guide took us north to Haifa, to Tzvat, the borders with Lebanon and Syria when we finally approached Jerusalem, it was from the north. I remember that as soon as we drove through the hills and I got a peek at Jerusalem (from very far away) for the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my surroundings. Jerusalem felt like home to me, despite the fact that I had never been there. Strangely I knew where to go and how to get around this holy city without looking at a map. There were times that I would tell my family that I had a shortcut to get to where we needed to go, and my wife who had been there before would tell me I was crazy (which is true but irrelevant). Actually my directions/shortcuts were always correct. Everywhere we went in the holy city, I knew where we were and its relation to the Temple Mount. And the closer we got to Mount Moriah, the lure of the Temple site was stronger than ever before.
Now at this point, anyone reading this who has never been to Israel is probably calling for the guys in white coats to bring me one of those nice jackets with the very longs sleeves that tie in the back, so they could drag me away peacefully. But before you make that call, ask anyone who has been there (anyone who believes in God) and see if they felt any different than me.
On our second day in Jerusalem, we were finally going to the Kotel. (This is Hebrew for wall; it’s what the Western retaining wall of the Temple Mount is called.) With rare exceptions the retaining wall is the closest any Jewish or Christian tourist can get to the Temple Mount. (For those who do get to the top of the Mount no praying is allowed for non-Muslims.) The Israeli Government created that law to appease Muslims.
The whole family got up early, I packed up my Tallit (prayer shawl), Siddur (prayer book) and T’fillin (small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah attached to straps and worn by Jews during daytime prayers). We took off with our guide into the Old City. Yossi, our wonderful guide built up the anticipation by taking us all over the Old City. He knew how important going to the Kotel was to me, yet rather than go directly there, he teased me saying, “Its right over that wall, we will see this movie first, let’s go to the burnt house. etc.” I was getting very frustrated, but he was masterfully building up my expectations. Finally, we walked down the wooden stairway and walked through the gate of the Kotel Plaza, I was overwhelmed by emotions that I had never felt before.
All my life I felt this longing to go to the Kotel, and I finally knew why. You see, everywhere else you go in Israel, you can feel the presence of all that has gone on before you, King David, Avraham, the 12 tribes, the two kingdoms and on and on. That is about culture and history. But when you visit Jerusalem, especially as you get close to Mount Moriah it is all about God. It is about being able to feel the lingering remnant of the Shekhinah (God’s presence) that left the first Temple over 2,500 years ago, never to return.
At the Kotel I learned that the dispute over the Temple Mount was all political. It is all about delegitimizing the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. No one had to say it–I was there. And with my son, then ten-years-old, holding my bag, I celebrated my lifelong dream, I wrapped one of the T’fillin around my arm, placed the other on my head –wrapped my Tallit around my son and me, and prayed to our maker.
It felt like so much more than praying at the Kotel. Those words of Hebrew seemed to have meaning like never before. I was connecting. Connecting with the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov. That “urge” I had felt all my life, was more like an invitation from my maker, “Come visit so we can talk where it’s a local call.” And, while God is everywhere, for some reason only a Rabbi can explain, His presence is much stronger in Jerusalem and strongest near the Temple Mount.
There–that’s it, that’s my proof, that’s how I know that the Temple Mount is Jewish. Nothing scientific, nothing that will work in a court of law or in an international dispute, I felt this strong connection to the Lord at the Kotel. There is not another place in the entire world that has even come close. Where did that connection originate? Maybe there is something in the DNA of a Jew that acts like a homing device. Just as a compass always points to the north, the heart of a Jew always points to Jerusalem.