Mourning, repentance – and love of the Land of Israel. These are arguably the major themes of these Three Weeks of Mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple.
The first two are well known and require little elaboration. But how does love and concern for Eretz Yisrael fit in to the picture?
The answer is based on a watershed event in Jewish history: the notorious sin of the spies, a result of disdain for the Land of Israel. Moses had sent them to scout out the Promised Land, but the Jews, fresh off being rescued from the bondage of Egypt, seemed only too eager to hear and accept their negative report.
What was the divine punishment? The Talmud puts it this way: “You cried for no good reason, so I’ll give you something to cry about. On this day – the 9th of Av – many centuries from now, the Beit HaMikdash will be destroyed.”
And since we are bidden to recognize our mistakes, learn from them, and often go to the other extreme, it is clear there is no better time than these Three Weeks to increase our love and solidarity with the Land of Israel, the holy city of Jerusalem, and the site of the Beit HaMikdash.
We must do this, first of all, by learning about them and their importance – and about the contemporary threats they face. The Beit HaMikdash compound, for instance, is currently facing a multi-pronged attack. Let us briefly list the most recent fronts of hostilities:
* The Temple Mount is under the de-facto control of hostile Muslims who restrict the entry of Jews and do not allow them to pray there.
* The Muslims are currently desecrating the site of the Holy of Holies by placing scaffolding atop the Foundation Stone, so that they can carry out “renovations.”
* Possibly most egregious of all is the ban placed by Israel’s police on Rabbi Yisrael Ariel – head of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem and one of the original liberators of the site during the Six Day War – from even entering the Temple Mount.
The first, of course, has been the case for many decades. Arab control over the Temple Mount became more pronounced right after the Six-Day War when Moshe Dayan literally “returned the keys” to the Muslim Waqf, arousing little Jewish protest. Since then, the Waqf has embarked on a campaign of destruction of all archaeological evidence of Jewish claims to this site. A Waqf sign at the entrance to the site of the Beit HaMikdash reads, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property.”
Can we truly claim Jewish sovereignty over a united Jerusalem if we allow this situation to continue without protest?
Supporters of Jewish Jerusalem were outraged last week when they learned the Waqf had turned the area of the Temple’s Holy of Holies into a construction site. The Temple Mount Loyalists filed suit in the Supreme Court on Sunday. They asked for an immediate restraining order to close the site, prevent those responsible for the desecration from entering, and enable the Chief Rabbinate to remove the scaffolding and end the desecration.
The petition states that the Waqf has taken advantage of its position to “harm the very heart of the Mount, in deepest offense to the emotions of the Jewish Nation…. Since the Early Prophets, the Foundation Stone has been the site of the High Priest’s exclusive service on Yom Kippur – the center of the world, according to Jewish faith, and the site on which the Ark of the Covenant was placed.”
Once again, without an international outcry from world Jewry, it is feared the request for judicial redress in the form of “quick and firm action and intervention” to put an end to this grave religious offense will once again fall on deaf ears.
And finally, many rabbis and other public figures have protested the unexplained police decision to prevent Rabbi Yisrael Ariel from visiting the Temple Mount. How ironic that Israel boasts freedom of religion and access to holy sites but bans a rabbi from Judaism’s holiest site – a rabbi who is the founder of the Temple Institute, which seeks to disseminate the principle taught in The Kuzari that “Jerusalem will be built when the Jews truly long for it.”