Situated in the south of Jerusalem, the project benefits from one of the city’s most prestigious and desirable locales, nestled in a particularly attractive area between the Talpiot neighborhood and the green groves of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
Israel is a nation with a strong sense of youth groups. To varying degrees, all of my children took part in one or another of the available youth groups. Shmulik took it one step further than his older siblings by not only taking part, but following the path up to be a counselor. David, now 16.5 years old, has chosen this path as well. Part of the perks is that the counselors continue as their own youth group and do things together.
They went to some training seminars and on Tisha B’Av, a fast day, they went late at night to walk around the ancient Old City walls. Their plan, and despite a delay, what they did, was to walk to the Western Wall and spend the remainder of the night there, reading, praying, learning, and remembering a time when the Temple Mount was in our hands and Jews could freely pray there.
Today, thanks to the idiocy of Moshe Dayan and the Israeli government of 1967, after being forced into war with Jordan and defeating it, the Old City was conquered and reunited with the rest of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount and the mosques that the Arabs built on top of the ruins of our Temples, was handed back to the Arabs. Again, an act of a war they started and lost. During the 19 years – again only 19 years – that the Old City was in Jordanian hands, Jews were forbidden entry to the entire Old City, including not only the Temple Mount, but also the Western Wall, which is the the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount area (and not part of the Temple itself).
When we reconquered the Old City, we found graves on the Mount of Olives that had been desecrated, used to build bathrooms, smashed, etc. Now, for the last 45 years, Arabs have access (and control) of the Temple Mount and other than for security reasons (like when they start rioting and throwing stones on the Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall), they are remarkably free to come and worship. They even have been given the right to restrict Jews from praying on the Temple Mount itself. Of course, it is really the Israeli government and not the Arabs who have imposed this restriction – one that has Israeli police watching each group of Jews that ascends the Temple Mount and threatens to arrest them if they close their eyes, if they whisper a prayer, if they dare to stand silently and bow – no Jewish prayers are allowed there today – to the great shame of our people.
So we do what we can – we walk around the wall; we pray at the Western Wall. So that night, as my son and the older group passed what is called the Gate of Compassion – one that is supposed to open when the Messiah comes – they were pelted with stones. One girl was injured before the kids were fully evacuated to safety. Last night, an Israeli bus was pelted by stones thrown by Arabs as Jews traveled to the Western Wall. No, the Temple Mount itself is not enough for the Arabs and so they attack Jews who are even close by.
I used to live to the west of Jerusalem and so I would occasionally see Arabs drop to the floor, face east, and bow to what I thought was Jerusalem. When I moved to live on the east side of Jerusalem, a funny thing happened. I realized that the Arabs were still facing eastward. No, it was never to Jerusalem they faced. They face to Mecca and where I live, that means putting their backside towards Jerusalem.
This is true on the Temple Mount itself. Five times a day, the Arabs fall to the ground, point their backsides to their mosques and our Holiest ground – no, it was never Jerusalem that reigned supreme in their prayers as it does in ours. All over the world, Jews face to Jerusalem. Within Jerusalem, all face to the Temple Mount itself.
We as a people keep doing it wrong. The parents of my sons group were justifiably upset about their children, my son, coming under a rock attack. So what did they do with this anger? Well, late last night, David came into my room with a piece of paper and a pen. He needed me to sign a letter that he was going today up north with the group – on my responsibility. The parents had threatened to sue the older counselors for what happened the night of the rock attack and so, in response, these teenagers can only continue the amazing activities being planned for them – if the parents take full responsibility and promise not to blame the counselors.
There should be an accounting – there should be someone responsible…but not the counselors. It is wrong to blame the wrong people because no one is doing enough to stop the real criminals, terrorists, murderers. The ones who must be brought to justice are the people who chose to throw stones at a group of teenagers, the Palestinians who threw rocks at a bus and injured 6 passengers, the Arabs who threw the boulder that killed Asher Palmer and his baby son Yonatan.. And the stone-throwers who killed 5-month-old Yehuda Shoham, and others.
And the media – there too – there is hypocrisy. Some news sites correctly identify the “perpetrators” as Arabs, Palestinians or, at least, terrorists. Then there are those who want to be politically correct. It is a game of modern journalism. So the radio reports that the rock throwers were “residents of East Jerusalem.” While there are Jews who live in East Jerusalem – this phrasing is a euphemism on so many fronts. First, in general, Jews don’t throw stones; second, East Jerusalem remains primarily Arab.
And third – blaming the wrong group is stupid. The counselors are not to be blamed for taking our children on a wonderful walk around the Old City and to the Western Wall – all parts of Israel. I’ll sign the form and send my son, but I won’t do it without a protest against the idiocy of blaming wrong.
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