The great significance of the Temple Mount is beyond religious and historical. It is national. The Temple Mount is a source of strength and power.
It is also a symbol for the Palestinians and their supporters, who see themselves as its landlords, if only through the Jordanian Waqf. It is because of the symbolism of the Temple Mount that Palestinian rejectionists believe Israel is weak and temporary.
The Palestinians are convinced that the Temple Mount is as important to us as it is to them, and meanwhile we continue to fight about it amongst ourselves—halachically and politically.
We do not understand the enormous damage caused by this debate, nor the central importance of going up to the Mount in order to strengthen our national identity and our connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. Until we do, we will not have achieved victory in our War of Independence, which is unfortunately not yet over.
I went up to the Temple Mount for the first time a few days ago. I had the privilege of accompanying Prof. Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum and one of the most influential historians and writers in the United States. We were guided by Tom Nisani, CEO of the organization Beyadenu.
On the one hand, I received a boost to my national and traditional Jewish identity. I saw and felt evidence that we were here for thousands of years, and this connected me to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem more than anywhere else.
However, at the same time, I felt humiliated. We were accompanied by policemen, our own Israeli policemen, who led us like prisoners, not allowing us to stop or deviate a few meters.
I felt again, for the first time since making aliyah to Israel about 30 years ago, like a weak Jewish child in the Soviet Union who had to be prepared for a physical fight in order to survive. And all of this a quarter-of-an-hour’s drive from my house in Jerusalem, seconds from the Western Wall, minutes from the Knesset, the Prime Minister’s Office and the seat of government of a sovereign Jewish state.
We must stop fighting religiously and politically over the Temple Mount. The halachic prohibition on going up to the site must take into consideration its national importance beyond its religious importance.
Our enemies must know that the Mount is important to us. The whole world must know that it is important to us—to all of us. Right and left, ultra-Orthodox, religious, traditional and secular. It should be as important to us as the Western Wall and Masada.
Many around the world understand the need for freedom of worship and it is denied to them because of our weakness.
After visiting the Temple Mount and seeing how vast it is, it is clear that there is no problem of space. It is mostly empty and unused. There should no logistical problem with allowing worship for Jews and others on the Temple Mount, without disturbing Muslims and without harming their status and their holy places.
Recently, a dress code was imposed on visitors to the Temple Mount by the Wakf, which is handing out clothing with a yellow stripe on it. This is certainly no coincidence. Yellow was the color imposed on Jews and Christians in Islamic countries that symbolized their lower status, known as dhimmi.
Jews were forced to wear a yellow patch as a sign of their inferior status beginning in the ninth century in Muslim countries, and it is not a coincidence that it was adopted by the Nazis during the 20th century.
It is extremely sad that it has returned here, in the heart of Jerusalem, in our holiest place. I was horrified and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. This is a stain on our national sovereignty and independence.
This sign shows that we have yet to properly assert our sovereignty on Zion itself, the symbolic center of Zionism. This means that our full independence has yet to be won and, in fact, with the handing out of clothing with a yellow stripe, it is another reminder that symbolism matters.
Our historic humiliation as an inferior people in the Diaspora is returning to the place that should matter most to us. Until we have reversed this, we will not have fully won our War of Independence.
Alex Selsky is a member of the Israel Victory Project and was previously an advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency and a member of the Executive Board of the World Zionist Organization.