The Temple Mount is the holiest site of the Jewish people. It has been such for thousands of years. It is the location where two Jewish Temples stood for more than 800 years. For the last 2,000 years, the Jewish people have yearned for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the Temple. Finally, after thousands of years, the location of the Holy Site is now under Jewish control. And what is going on there? Arab children are running around freely and playing while Jewish people need to be watched over by Arabs to make sure that they don’t utter a word of prayer in the sacred site. How did this come to be?
The State of Israel was founded in 1948. Prior to that, the Land of Israel was ruled by the British. The British took over the Land of Israel from the Turks (the Ottoman Empire) during World War I. But in Israel’s War of Independence between 1947-1948, Israel gained independence in most of the areas that Jewish people had settled on in the previous decades leading up to the War of Independence. But there was one startling exception – the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel had a tiny force of soldiers that fought against hundreds of Jordanian invaders. Following weeks of fierce battle in close quarters, the Jewish fighters finally gave in. There were even Jewish children, under the age of 13, who fought and were killed in the battle. What followed was nineteen years of Jordanian occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem while the Jewish State bordered the Old City of Jerusalem less than a block away. No Jew could pray in the Old City at the Western Wall, and certainly walk up to the Temple Mount above.
But in 1967, Israel was forced into a defensive war following an invasion by three armies, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The cause for the fighting was the closing of Israeli shipping by Egypt at the Straits of Tiran. When diplomacy bore no fruit, Israel responded with a lightning Air Force strike that wiped out most of the Air Forces of the Arab countries surrounding her. That was followed by shooting from Jordan into the Jewish part of Jerusalem. Israel had tried everything to convince Jordan to stay out of the fray. But Jordan insisted on taking part in the victory they thought was imminent. What resulted was a total victory by the State of Israel over Jordan. Israel liberated the ancient cities of Hebron, Shechem, Beth-El, and of course – the Old City of Jerusalem.
So, why is the Temple Mount not free for Jewish people to pray on it? The answer is very simple. The Israeli leadership – especially in 1967 – has been disconnected from much of the Jewish traditions that have fueled the continuity of the Jewish people for generations. Therefore, the Israeli government handed the keys to the Temple Mount to Arab religious leaders right at the end of the Six Day War instead of making sure to insure Jewish rights in the holiest site of the Jewish people. But the Jewish disconnect from tradition is gradually changing in the State of Israel. As the country becomes more and more connected to it’s roots, the calls for a return to sovereignty and Jewish control over the Temple Mount are also growing. At the very least, every Jewish Holy Site should never be used as a playground.