A New York Times article published Thursday has evoked anger from historians and archaeological experts by appearing to cast doubt that a Jewish temple ever existed on the Temple Mount — a claim often promoted by Palestinian spokesmen to deny Israel’s right to exist.
The Times later amended its piece — “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place” — to say the issue is where precisely on the Temple Mount the Jewish temple once stood, which is a point of debate even among biblical scholars and archaeologists. But it was too late, the damage was done.
If the NY Times had asked, I could have provided absolute proof of the Temple Mount’s Jewishness. I’ve done it before. The report by Rick Gladstone is just the latest example of how mainstream media reporters say, “what the Jewish people SAY was the location of the Holy Temples.” Any claim the Temple Mount is anything but Jewish is simply way out of line. To back up my statement I could march out tons of historical data, written by both Jews and Muslims alike declaring the the top of Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) as the home of the two Jewish Temples, but that is a different post. I could even point to the fact that Christian faiths believed that Jesus preached there.
I am not here to argue history or tradition, nor am I going to make jokes about the the fact that when Muslims in Israel face Mecca to pray, they are mooning the Temple Mount (although it’s true). No discussion about how Moshe Dayan was the villain of the mount etc.
The reason I don’t have to argue about ownership because I have 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.
All my life I had this overwhelming desire to go to Jerusalem and especially the Temple mount. I never 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 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 travel where we needed to go, and my wife who had been there before would tell me I was crazy (which is true but irrelevant). I was always correct. Everywhere I went, I knew where we were and its relation to the Temple Mount. And the closer I got, 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 with the nice white jackets with sleeves that tie in the back to take me away. 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 I did.
On our second day in Jerusalem, we were finally going to the Kotel (the Western retaining wall of the the Temple Mount). With rare exceptions the retaining wall is the closest any Jewish or Christian tourist can get to the Temple Mount (and if they can get on top of the Mount no praying is allowed for non-Muslims) That is a law created by the Israeli Government to keep the Muslims happy.
The whole family got up early, I packed up my Tallit and T’fillin and 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 the going to the Kotel was to me, yet rather than go directly to it he teased me with, “Its right over that wall, we will see this movie first, lets 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 not about culture and history. When you visit the Jerusalem it is about God. It is about being able to feel the lingering remnant of the Shekhinah (God’s presence) that left the Temple over 2,500 years ago..
That’s when I learned that the dispute over the Temple Mount was all political, it is all about delegitimizing the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Because I was there. And with my son, then ten year old holding my bag, I celebrated my life long dream, I wrapped the T’fillin around my arm, placed it on my head wrapped my Tallit around my son and me, and prayed to our maker.
It felt like so much more than praying when I was at the Kotel, Those words of Hebrew seemed to have meaning like never before. I was it 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.” And while God is everywhere, for some reason only a Rabbi can explain, his presence much stronger in Jerusalem and especially at 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 would that has even come close. Where did that connection originate? 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.