National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir went up to the Temple Mount on Tuesday morning which also happened to be the day of the Fast of the 10th of Tevet (Fake Out! Ben Gvir Goes Up to Temple Mount). Perhaps unintentionally, Ben Gvir brought a most fitting closure to a cycle of loss and destruction that began on this day 2,611 years ago, in 588 BCE. All these many years ago, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem which ended a year and six months later, on the 17th of Tamuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and three weeks after that, on the 9th of Av, our first temple was destroyed, the kingdom of Judea capitulated and the Babylonian exile began.
Today, the circle was completed, when a religious Jewish and a rather combative minister representing a vigorous renewal and redemption of Jewish life set foot on the holy mountain ignoring enemies inside and out who had been foaming at the mouth about his “burning the Middle East.”
History picks its heroes, and today, it cast a feisty albeit charming warrior to announce to the entire nation as well as its numerous enemies: We are not afraid.
Standing on the holy ground where fear of liberation continues to paralyze even the majority of faithful Jews, Itamar Ben Gvir reminded me of one of the nation’s earliest true heroes, the prince of the tribe of Judah Nachshon ben Aminadav, who jumped first into the Sea of Reeds before it parted for the Israelites. We don’t know much about Nachshon, we don’t know how many of his brethren (and sistren) warned him in a panic that he was going to drown the whole nation and flood the Middle East. All we remember is that he jumped into the water until it covered him above his head, and the sea parted.
And on the 10th of Tevet, Itamar Ben Gvir declared: “Our government will not surrender to the threats of Hamas. The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel, and we maintain the freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians, but Jews will also go up to the mountain.”
Since 1950, this day has also been marked in the State of Israel as the general Kaddish day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust whose date of death is unknown. Talk about closing a circle. The souls of our loved ones who were taken from us by the world’s last Pharaoh are looking at us today, eager to share with us that our redeemer is around the corner, he’s just brushing his brass buttons and adjusting his hat.
Today is also the 150th birthday of Israel’s poet laureate Hayim Nahman Bialik, whose poems, songs, stories, and Agada manuscripts inspired generations of Israelis. He also wrote the stirring poem “On the Slaughter,” days after the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev (Ukraine). Bialik wrote with his heart’s blood (translation courtesy of The Paris Review):
If there’s justice—let it come now!
But if it should come after I’ve been
blotted out beneath the sky,
let its throne be cast down.
Let the heavens rot in evil everlasting,
and you, with your cruelty,
go in your iniquity
and live and bathe in your blood.
But there is justice, and after half a century or so of our nation’s bleeding half to death, we received justice: a state we can call our own, and a few years later, all our Biblical lands and the holiest site, the Temple Mount. And ever since that glorious liberation, we’ve been fretting and doubting and spreading panic – as if we were still hiding under that cursed bed in the attic in Kishinev.
At which point, 120 years after that despicable mass murder of our families by the Ukrainian thugs who today beg for our help against the thug in their own home, a relatively simple and straightforward man named Itamar Ben Gvir went up to the Temple Mount and established a new status quo: We’re back, get used to it.