Tours Travel

A house of prayer for all peoples?

On Simchat Torah (Festival of the Rejoicing of the Law/Last Great Day) I went up to the Temple Mount with my Bible to pray. Although I don’t usually wear a yarmulke (skull cap), I took one with me.

My first challenge was to get past the guards near the entrance to the Temple Mount; if they saw me with my bible they wouldn’t let me in. I prayed silently all the way to the site where the Temple of God stood twice, and will be rebuilt for the third and last time, so I could enter. I passed the guards.

Are you saying that Jewish guards prevent Christians and Jews from exercising their religious right to pray on the Temple Mount? That’s how it is! Only Muslims have unlimited access to Judaism’s holiest site. Only Quran is allowed inside. The Tanach (Jewish Scripture, known to much of the world as the “Old Testament”) and the Christian Scriptures (the New Testament) are prohibited. However, Israel claims to respect the religious rights of all people.

Israel does not have any laws that prohibit Christians and Jews from praying or reading the scriptures on the Temple Mount. However, it has an unwritten agreement with the Wakf (Muslim religious authorities) that prohibits it. There is no sign saying: “Warning! Christian and Jewish prayers are prohibited! Muslim religious authorities do not allow Bibles. Proceed with caution!”

I do not accept that Muslims have the authority to prohibit me from reading the appropriate Psalms or the New Testament account of Jesus celebrating the Water Libation Ceremony (Psalms 120-134, John 7:37). My question was, where should I read those passages? I ended up between the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque, just to the right of where Muslims wash their hands and feet. It was on the other side of the raised platform there, if you look towards the Mosque of Omar.

First, I nervously sat down and read. Then I put on my black yarmulke, stood up and began to read for a few minutes until I got distracted for fear of being attacked by the Muslim guards. I sat down, took off my kippah, and continued reading. Then one of the Wakf guards noticed me and asked what I was reading. I replied: “Yes, it is my book.” He took it from me and saw that it was a Bible. He asked me if I was a Christian or a Jew. When I told him I was a Christian, he asked me why I was wearing a Magen David (Star of David).

I didn’t feel compelled to explain that it was a gift from my mother and little sister, and I said, “Give me back my Bible.” She ordered: “You have to go now!” Again I said, “Give me back my Bible.” When she refused, I demanded her stronger return from her. She raised her fist as if to hit me and warned me not to raise my voice. This attracted the attention of some passing tourists, who gathered around us. I told them: “This thief has stolen my Bible!”

The Wakf guard told me to leave again and threatened to beat me. He said he would put my Bible back outside. Since there was no reason for him to confiscate it in the first place, I told him to give it back to me right then and I would leave. At that moment he radioed for an Israeli policeman, who came running. The Israeli handcuffed my right hand, and I held it up and showed it to the assembled tourists, saying, “This is Israeli democracy!” I repeatedly asked the Israeli: “What law have I broken?” knowing that he hadn’t broken any laws, but that he was being treated like a common criminal.

I am amazed that the Jewish police in the Jewish state help maintain Muslim domination of the Temple Mount by suppressing Christian and Jewish religious rights there. Is it the Temple Mount or the Mosque Mount?

An Israeli policeman took me away. I told the bewildered tourists: “This is what happens to a Christian or a Jew who wants to read the Bible where the holy temple was. This is what happens to Christians and Jews who want to pray where our prophets prayed.” and patriarchs, and where Jesus and his disciples taught.”

Why exclusive religious rights for Muslims? And Israel wants to hand over control of Rachel’s Tomb, Bethlehem and Joseph’s Tomb to Muslim religious authorities? Are they crazy or what?

At the Western Wall Plaza police station, the officers wanted to know who else was with me. They were relieved to discover that he was alone. (They should have known that I was performing a mitzvah [religious commandment]). The police said they arrested me for my own protection. I told them that they should have arrested the Wakf guard who threatened me! Why not remove, once and for all, the threat of Muslim violence? Why reward Muslim extremists?

The policemen laughed in disbelief when I told them that I am a Christian and that my Bible includes the New Testament, which they returned to me. A Druze officer said: “But you must respect other religions.” He remained silent when I asked, “Where was your respect for mine?” I explained that our biblical goal is to allow everyone to come and pray on the mountain where God’s Temple was, and in the Temple when it is rebuilt. It is prophesied that it will become a “House of Prayer” for all nations.

The police told me that I could return to the Temple Mount as a tourist, without my Bible. I said that I don’t want to go up there just as a “tourist”; I want to pray there. When they asked me how many times I had uploaded, I said “thousand”. They wrote it down in their report. They said I could make a brief statement for the record. I said something along the lines of: “Is it too much to ask during this 3000th anniversary of King David’s Jerusalem to peacefully read his inspired words on the Temple Mount?”

When I left the police compound, one of the policemen told me that I did a good thing. Outside, I was greeted by some Jews who saw the incident and congratulated me.

I pray that this unfortunate encounter raises awareness of Israel’s religious discrimination against Christians and Jews. The situation must change. It will when enough people yell “Enough!” (Italian for “enough!”).

May the day soon come when Christians, Jews and Muslims can say: “My House will be called a house of prayer for all the Peoples”. (Isaiah 56:7). the Bible says

“Furthermore, as for the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, but comes from a far country for your name’s sake, for they will hear of your great name, and of your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm, and I will come and pray toward this house. Hear you in heaven, your dwelling place, and do according to everything that the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as (do) your people of Israel, that they may know that your name is called upon this house that I have built. (1 Kings 8:41-43)

“And the foreigners who join the Lord to serve him and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, all those who observe the Sabbath, I will bring to my holy mountain, and I will make them happy in my house of prayer Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, because my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)

“And it shall come to pass at the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the head of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and peoples shall flow to it. And many nations will come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths’, for the Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” ( Micah 4:1-2)

(This article was originally published in the newsletter of the Jerusalem-based Root and Branch Association, January 1996.)

See Israel’s Holy Sites Protection Law of 1967 which they have failed to enforce and refused to uphold.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *