Op-ed: Jerusalem holy site, once a source of national pride, now viewed by Israeli decision-makers as a national problem
by Yoaz Hendel
"The Temple Mount is in our hands," Lieutenant General Mordechai 'Motta' Gur called out upon entering the plaza beneath the golden mosque during the Six Day War. Gur, who was secular, was referring to secular sovereignty, the kind that can plant a flag, rule and fight.
In a way, Gur's declaration symbolized the connection between Judaism and Zionism. Without Judaism the Jews would not have necessarily chosen to come to Zion. Without Zionism they would not have built a state, conquered a capital and fought for territory and sovereignty.
Rabbi Goren, the shofar and the prayers symbolized the return of the religious divine presence (shechina) to the Temple Mount. The paratroopers, Gur and the calls over the radio symbolized the secular divine presence that took over the Temple Mount.
Since those days in June of 1967, the secular divine presence has departed from the Temple Mount. The Israelis' excitement upon hearing recordings of Gur's famous words and seeing the Israeli flag being waved at the Temple Mount faded. All that remained was the religious presence. The Temple Mount, once a source of national pride, has become a national problem in the eyes of the decision-makers – a "powder keg."
This week police banned a group of female Bnei Akiva youth movement members from calling out "The Temple Mount is in our hands!" or holding up signs with the slogan during a demonstration they planned to hold in the Old City.
The slogan Gur repeated three times is now viewed by Israel Police as "incitement." The only ones who seemed to be unnerved by this were members of the religious-Zionist movement, religious parties and right-wing activists. Israel did not shake, and the press was not particularly interested.
Despite its historic importance, the evolution of the Temple Mount has led to a situation whereby the only people who care about it today belong to the school of the religious divine presence. Their ambitions are religious, as is their reasoning. Unfortunately, secular Zionism has yet to produce a successor to Motta Gur – a successor with secular divine presence who will speak of the meaning of the slogan "The Temple Mount is in our hands."
The State of Israel repeatedly declares its sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and no ruling party has ever called publicly to transfer control over the site to another entity. But in practice, 45 years on, in modern Israel, there is no sovereignty over the Temple Mount. The waqf is the sole ruler and it decides what is permitted and what is forbidden. A state within a state.
During the battle for the Old City, Gur asked soldiers who had entered the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum to be careful not to damage anything - to preserve history. Today, in the same place that he conquered, infrastructure work is destroying archeological treasures.
There is no supervision by the Israel Antiquities Authority or police. There is no preservation of history. Moreover, freedom of worship – a cornerstone of any liberal and democratic country – is non-existent on the Temple Mount when it comes to Jews who wish to pray there. The waqf decides, the potentially explosive situation dictates. And so, when the Bnei Akiva members wanted to convey a message, police preferred calm.
It is not the fault of Israel Police. Its actions are a product of Israel's policy, or rather the continued lack of policy vis-a-vis the Temple Mount.