“You don’t have to send delegations to Hungary to witness raw antisemitism.”
B’nai Brith Canada winded down its 10-day annual mission to Israel on Tuesday morning, May 28, with a visit to Har HaBayit – the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. Although the group had been made aware of the anti-Jewish intolerance at the Temple Mount – which remains under control of the Jordanian Waqf [Islamic trust] – they were shocked by the intensity of the antisemitism.
While waiting to be admitted, a Muslim guard began harassing the delegation, calling Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, chutzpan (insolent) and threatening to deny him entry. No one had provoked him. Several other visibly religious Jews were being treated harshly as well.
Upon entering, the Canadian women – all dressed modestly – were forced to buy unattractive shawls to cover up with. Then at least 50 Arab women, dressed in full hijab, began screaming “Allah Akhbar” repeatedly.
The Canadian tourists were warned not to move their lips in prayer, nor cry or show emotion as Jews. A Muslim Israeli policeman and an official of the Waqf followed the group closely throughout the visit, often forcing them to move quickly.
Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute, who accompanied the Canadian group, often had to beg for just another moment to finish his sentence. Meanwhile, Muslim men, women and children were strolling freely; some of the youths were playing soccer on the holy site, which in some areas was strewn with garbage. While they could use any gate to enter and exit, the Jewish group could use one specific gate only.
Also evident were signs of desecration and destruction of Jewish artifacts.
“You don’t have to send delegations to Hungary to witness raw antisemitism,” said Dimant, “Jews are treated as second-class citizens in the Jewish state.”
Dimant, who led the mission together with Eric Bissell, president of B’nai Brith Canada, is also a delegate to the Global Forum on Antisemitism taking place this week in Jerusalem. “It’s ironic that the Forum is meeting in Jerusalem and will by design ignore this hatred in Jerusalem,” he said. “I doubt that any of the delegates will leave the conference hall to protest this antisemitic behavior in Israel’s capital, which is an ongoing problem.”
Visiting Har HaBayit is a “lesson in subjugation,” Rabbi Richman stated. “When they trash everything we have and we allow it, then we deserve what we get.”
Linda Olmert, executive director of Eretz Nehederet-Birthright for Israelis, joined the Canadian tour. She had made aliyah from Toronto decades ago.
“It is infuriating that Israel abdicated to the Muslim Waqf de facto dominion over our holiest site, the Temple Mount,” she declared. “It makes my blood boil that [Waqf officials] can and do make every effort to impose their misogynist, apartheid world view deliberately and particularly on Jewish groups. Did we really return to Israel to be told in our own land, on our holiest site, that we must not pray or cry? However the worst tragedy is that most of Israel is oblivious to this, and just does not care.”
Also, “can it really be that the Israeli media, which have made a major case of the Women of the Wall and their fight with the rabbinical institutions, keep silent about the fact that only a few meters away, on the far holier Temple Mount site, Jewish women are forced to pay for Palestinian plaid scarves to ensure covering from the tips of their toes to our heads?”
Nevertheless, “I see the cup as half full, as hundreds and hundreds of people, including yeshiva students, come once a month,” Rabbi Richman said. “There’s an awakening, although a bit too little and too late, because for generations Israelis were taught that we have no connection” to Temple Mount.
When the visit ended, a number of small boys – apparently on cue – pelted the Jews with stones.
B’nai Brith Canada will issue an official protest to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the minister of Religious Affairs.
Each year, the mission visits cities in the disputed territories that are central to Jewish history, including Hebron, Beit-El, Ariel and Shilo. It’s an unusual itinerary for a mainstream North American Jewish organization. David Wilder, spokesperson for Hebron’s Jewish community, presented to Bissell a Certificate of Appreciation, and to Dimant a Certificate of Honorary Citizenship.