Every day there are more stories in the media and Arab protests about Israel trying to “Judaicise” the area around what they call the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. I have even read with curiosity how European Foreign Ministers and press reporters with Christian backgrounds describe the site as “what the Jewish people SAY was the location of the Holy Temples.” When those folks go to church on Sunday do they argue with their Priests and Ministers to change the gospels because the man that they believe was the Son of God went to that Temple Mount 3x a year.
But I am not here to argue history or tradition, no jokes about the Muslims mooning the Temple Mount when they pray (although it’s true because they are facing Mecca). No discussion of how Moshe Dayan was the villain of the mount etc.
I don’t have to argue about ownership of the top of Mount Moriah because I have been there. All my life there has been something pulling me toward the Temple Mount. I never understood that urge until my first trip to Israel.
When we drove through the hills and I got my first look at Jerusalem for the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my surroundings. Jerusalem felt like home, despite the fact that I had never been there in my life, I knew where to go and how to get around without looking at a map. There were times, without consulting a map I would tell my family of a shortcut to reach our destination, and my wife who had been there before would tell me I was crazy (true but irrelevant). But I was always correct.
Everywhere we went in Jerusalem I knew where we were and its relation to the Temple Mount. To be honest the lure of the Temple Site was stronger in Israel than ever before.
Now at this point, anyone Jewish reading this who has never been to Israel is probably calling for the guy with the straight-jacket to take me away. But ask someone who has been there, someone who believes in HaShem and see if feel any different.
On our second day in Jerusalem, we were finally going to the Kotel (the Western Wall) and the Temple Mount. 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 took 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, 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 to and I finally knew why. You see, everywhere else you go in Israel, you feel the presence of all that has gone on before you, King David, Avraham, the tribes, the Two Kingdoms and on and on. That is about culture and history. When you visit the Kotel it is about God. It is about being able to feel the lingering presence of the Shekhinah (presence of God) that has been gone for two thousand years.
That’s when I realized that the dispute over the Temple Mount was all political, all about delegitimizing the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Because I was there!
With my then ten year old son holding my prayer bag, I celebrated my lifelong dream, I wrapped the T’fillin around my arm, placed it on my head wrapped my tallit around my son and me and said the Shechayanu followed by Mincha.
It wasn’t just the physical act praying at the Kotel; those words of Hebrew seemed to have meaning like never before. I was it was the 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, I could feel his presence much stronger at the Temple Mount (my Son says that’s because at the Kotel it’s only a local call).
That’s it, that’s my proof, nothing scientific, nothing that will work in a court of law, or in an international dispute. If you look for it, the connection to God is strongest at the Kotel. There is not another place in the entire world that has even come close.
If ANYONE doubts me, allow me to suggest that you pack up your dahvening tools and take a trip to Israel. When you arrive, go to the Kotel put on your tallit and t’fillin and feel that connection for yourself. I guarantee it will change you forever.