A Modern Eicha: Seeing the Desecration of the Temple Mount

Illustration: Fallen Stones from 70 AD Temple Mount Destruction by Carole Raddato [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Illustration: Fallen Stones from 70 AD Temple Mount Destruction by Carole Raddato [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Because of this our hearts are sick, Because of these our eyes are dimmed: Because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate; Jackals prowl over it.

Eicha 5: 17-18

Another Tisha B'Av (the 9th of the month of Av) has arrived. Another tragic, solemn, difficult, sad time, mourning the destruction and loss of the two Batei HaMikdash (Holy Temples) in Jerusalem, which triggered a 2,000-year exile from our eternal homeland. We annually observe the laws, rituals, customs, and restrictions of mourning and grieving that make up the Three Weeks and the Nine Days culminating in Tisha B'Av.

On Tisha B'Av, the synagogue’s lights are dimmed and the congregants are hushed. A few candles flutter in the corners — their flickering flames lighting the pained and saddened faces of the congregation wearing non-leather shoes, sitting on low benches, stools, or the floor. They are waiting for the night prayers to begin, bringing with them the mournful, doleful tune of Eicha (Lamentations) which rises softly, together with the sobbing tears of the mourners of Zion.

Every mind is shattered as the picture of the beloved homeland, holy city of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount — bereft of its children — comes to mind. Every pious Jew sitting in the room, whether in the Exile or the land of Israel, sighs and dreams of the day that the third Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) will be rebuilt.

Throughout the duration of the day, many go to the Kotel (Western Wall), sit on the ground and pray Kinot (sad poems). They may follow this with watching and listening to encouraging, inspirational, motivational shiurim (lessons) by rabbinic leaders and organizations, relating to such concepts as Mashiach (Messiah), the End of Days, the Redemption, and seeing the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt in our days.

And yet, as with too many Jewish concepts that were meant to be living and thriving so as to grip the heart and soul — ha’ikar haser min hasefer (the main idea is missing). Unfortunately, there are Jews who practice the rituals of the Three Weeks and of Tisha B'Av, but few — all too few — deeply mourn for the Temple, Jerusalem and the land of Israel. They quickly mouth the Kinot and Eicha on the 9th of Av, not understanding the words.

In fact, some find it difficult to feel the pain and shed tears on Tisha B'Av. They think, “Is there not a Jewish state today? Have we not returned to the Old City and the Western Wall? What need is there for tears if the Exile no longer exists? Let’s be honest with each other — who really needs a Beit HaMikdash today anyway? It sounds like a relic from some bygone era. Didn’t the Rambam (Maimonides) say that there won’t be any sacrifices in the future temple? Haven’t we all evolved? Didn’t the Rabbis say that it’s just a symbol, and don't we have to wait for Mashiach to build it? And what about the mosque up there? Do you want to cause a world war? It’s a different world today…”

Tragically, some Jews find the Three Weeks to be a rather excruciating, inconvenient time period during the summer that prevents them from enjoyment. Some look forward to its passing as quickly as possible so that vacation and enjoyment can continue, in Israel or hutz la’aretz (outside of Israel). And all too few feel the stab of pain in their heart for the Temple that is not there — for the lack of holiness and sanctity that Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash mean.

After 2,000 years of exile, the very idea of a Beit haMikdash, offering sacrifices, and burning incense seems crazy and foreign to us — let alone our actually building it. We’ve gotten used to not having it; we’ve gotten complacent with the current situation. How can we relate to something we never experienced or saw, how can we have feelings for something we never felt or had? Are crying, fasting, yearning, praying, and mourning, all there is to the Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av — or is there something much more — something we should be doing, acting upon, and building?

Mount Zion lies desolate

The year was 1967 — the six day miracle burst forth. The Almighty used His strength and mighty right arm to smash the mocking Arabs who dared to desecrate and humiliate His Name, giving us the most glorious Jewish victory in more than 3,000 years. The Muslim occupiers of the Temple Mount were cast into the dust, the Temple Mount was freed from the rule of the nations, and His name was sanctified as the Arabs reeled in fear and awe of the Jewish army.

It’s been more than 53 years of Jewish power, Jewish rule, Jewish control, and Jewish return to the Temple Mount, but what has happened since then? We took a miracle of a Six Day War and turned it into an ordinary event. We took holiness and made it profane. We took the greatest event in Jewish destiny in 3,000 years and fled from it in fear.

We saw a miracle and feared it was a curse.

Who would have dreamed this, in our blackest nightmare? Who could have perceived that the glory of the miraculous return to the Temple Mount; the ecstatic cry of the commander Motta Gur, “The Temple Mount is in our hands”; the electrifying Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) of the mighty Jewish hand sending the enemy fleeing in panic — would end more than 53 years later with the Muslims still in control and the Holy of Holies still in their hands?

How can it be that we see this shame, disgrace, and desecration and don’t cry out in sheer physical agony? We see no disgrace, we hear no cry of shame coming from Horeb and Zion, and we feel no pain of the loss of the Holy Temple. The Muslims remain and walk there; most Jews are unaware of the reality there.

We proved that one can remove the Jew from the exile but that the exile still lives on in the Jew. If the Prophet Jeremiah wept for a Temple Mount, desolate and defiled by foreigners who conquered it when the Jews were powerless to prevent it, surely we must tear our garments for a Temple Mount, defiled and desecrated, and shake the heavens with the wailing of shame as Muslims today desecrate the Holy of Holies — when the Jews control the state! Was there ever a greater disgrace, desecration, Hillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name) than this in the past 2,000 years?

For this our hearts are sick…

Moreover, not only do we allow the mosque and the Dome of the Rock — the symbols of Allah and his power and sovereignty — to remain standing at the site of the Holy of Holies and thus to symbolically humiliate and conquer the G-d of Israel; not only do we refuse to heed the cry of the hour, the Divine commandment to remove the Muslims and their mosques, not only do we desecrate the name of the G-d of Israel but, incredibly, we give them sovereignty over the area!

When one considers today’s Jewish people — the product of a 2,000-year exile — there is no sense of indignation for the attack on Judaism and the sanctity of Israel.

The Temple Mount is the ultimate symbol of the struggle — indeed war — between those who cry out the belief that the G-d of Israel is the one and only G-d, and those who deny Him, echoing the blasphemy of the Egyptian Pharaoh who mocked Moses and the G-d of Israel, tauntingly shouting: “Who is the L-rd that I should heed him and let Israel go? (Ex. 5:2)”

The Temple Mount’s mosques stand as a continuing desecration of G-d’s holy name. The Muslims grasp the knowledge expressed by Uri Tzvi Greenberg, who once said, “Whoever controls the Temple Mount, controls Jerusalem. Whoever controls Jerusalem, controls the Land of Israel.”

On top of the Temple Mount Today

On a daily basis, Arab policemen patrol the Temple Mount, overseeing the area run by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. Their sole task is to hinder Jews from exercising their right to pray. A Jew may not enter the Mount with a prayer book, but he can enter with a camera, behaving like a secular visitor or tourist, with Waqf permission. If a Jew is caught praying, the Israeli police will request that he stop praying, enforcing the humiliating anti-Jewish status quo of the Israeli government — and creating a de facto autonomous Palestinian Muslim state on our holiest of sites through its acquiescence to the Waqf.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled time and time again that Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount is, in fact, 100% legal. Although it is a lawful right, the police on the Temple Mount don’t enforce the ruling. In fact, they enforce the very opposite. The Israeli police claim that, in order to prevent public disorder, maintain public peace, and civil unrest on the Mount and not to offend Muslims, Jews are not to openly pray nor express signs of Jewish worship. As such, the Israeli police prevent anything that they think and define as a “provocation.”

A House of Prayer for All Peoples

How can we rectify and improve the situation? What is required and demanded of us, as individuals, as a nation? How are we supposed to sanctify G-d’s holy name in the holiest site in Judaism?

The obvious conclusion would be to remove the Muslims and their buildings that occupy the Temple Mount. We must return to religious and national normalcy, to self-pride and self-respect. Demand the absolute right of Jews to pray and to build a synagogue in the area of the Temple Mount that has been rabbinically ruled permissible to walk upon. Transfer legal oversight jurisdiction from the Supreme Muslim Council and the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf to our Rabbis. We must recognize that the coming of geulah (the final redemption) is irrevocably linked to the purification and Jewish control of the holiest of all places, the Temple Mount.

But the government of Israel — as well as some Jews — will cry out: “This will arouse the Muslim world against us; it will bring down the wrath of the world on us!” Consider the alternative: retaining the present situation and its status quo Hillul Hashem, will arouse G-d against us and will bring down His wrath on the Jewish people. Those Jews who have little faith will fear the Muslims, but the Jews of complete faith fear the G-d of Israel.

We are obliged to awaken the Jewish nation from its exilic sleep, wipe off the exile’s dust, and not be afraid to learn about the Temple Mount. We must speak about it, discuss it, debate it, encourage it, motivate it, go up to the Temple Mount in purity, fear, honor, dignity, love, fervor, and awe — observing the proper Jewish laws regarding the holiness of the area.

Ultimately, the Holy Temple enables all of humanity to engage in direct, dynamic relationship with G-d, and provides the opportunity for every individual to rise to our greatest potential. Haggai said, “In this place, I will grant peace (Hag. 2:9).” Isaiah put it, “My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples (Is. 56:7).”

This is for today and it can start now. The Torah’s commandments are for all of Israel to fulfill, always and forever. The building of the Holy Temple is no exception; in the words of the Torah: “And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst (Ex. 25:8).”

The Rambam lists building the Temple as one of the eternally binding positive commandments: “It is a positive commandment to build a House for G-d, ready to perform the offerings... (Hilchot Beit HaBechira 1:1).” The Rambam’s point is that every activity of seeking out and coming closer to building the Temple is part of the mitzvah of building it. The verse teaches that there is a mitzvah to seek out the place and to physically approach it, and that this will lead to our building it. All this is included in the mitzvah of “seeking out His presence,” making an effort to create a seat for the Divine Presence in the Land, in Zion, our holy city. Emphasizing its importance, nearly one third of the 613 mitzvot have to do with building the Beit HaMikdash. Simply by ascending the Temple Mount, we fulfill five special mitzvot, namely:

"Look to the site that G-d will choose; there you are to go (Deut. 12:5).”

"Serve Him in His Temple — means that one's goal should be to pray in the Temple (Rambam Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment 5).”

Reverence for the Temple (Lev. 19:30; Tractate Yev. 6b)

"You shall not show them (the gentiles) mercy; Do not give them the chance to acquire land (Deut. 7:2, Tractate Avoda Zara 20a, Rambam Hilchot Avoda Zara 10:4, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 151: 7-8).”

"Take possession of the Land and live there (Num. 33:53).”

G-d doesn’t do the mitzvot for us; waiting for Mashiach must not be used as an excuse for neglecting our responsibility. Let’s remember that G-d is waiting for us to begin rebuilding the Holy Temple to make this world into the place it was meant to be.

May it be this year that through our hard work and efforts, with the proper motivations, will-power, determination, stubbornness, and pure intentions, we will yet merit to build the third and final Beit HaMikdash on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to bring Mashiach, and go full-steam ahead towards the Final Redemption, speedily and happily in our days. We must not only weep but must also fight. Har haBayit (the Temple Mount) is, indeed, in our hands.

Michael Miller (Photo courtesy the author)

As an 18-year-old, Michael Miller made aliyah with his family from New York. A resident of Jerusalem, he served in the Netzach Yehuda Battalion combat infantry unit before receiving his B.A. degree from Bar Ilan University in Social Sciences. He holds certificates in both the Israel Advocacy and Public Diplomacy fields.

An idealist — and extremely passionate about Eretz Yisrael, Judaism, and Har haBayit (the Temple Mount) — Michael uses his skills to help ‘Make Israel Great Again!’ He is a Temple Mount Guide with the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation and an activist in the Students for the Temple Mount movement. He co-manages the social media Facebook page for Boomerang – Fighting for Israel, a well-known pro-Israel advocacy group. Click here to read more of this writer's work in The Jerusalem Herald.

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