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The Mountains of Israel – a Taste of Heaven

Authors: Britt Lode and Rabbi Yitschak Naki

The Mountains of Israel – a Taste of Heaven

Price: $ 34.95 + shipping
Format: Hard Cover
ISBN 10: 8299898129
ISBN 13: 9788299898126
Number of Pages: 160
Year Published: 2015

 

Description:
The Mountains of Israel – a Taste of Heaven takes you on a unique and exciting journey through the mountains of Israel. Today these mountains are perhaps better known as the West Bank, and most people would associate them with decades-old conflict – but these mountains also have another story to tell. About 85 percent of the Bible refers to these mountains, or was written from them. In other words, this area is the Bible’s heartland! Complete with stunning photographs, scriptural quotations and short stories containing nuggets of Jewish wisdom, The Mountains of Israel will leave you with a “taste of heaven”!

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HOME IS WHERE THE HEARTLAND IS By Jonina Pritzker

There is a famous story in Jewish tradition about two women who are fighting over a baby, each claiming that the baby belongs to her. They appear before King Solomon, whose wisdom was legendary, to have the king decide between them as to which woman was the real mother. King Solomon’s solution was to cut the baby in half, awarding half the child to each woman. At that point, the true mother stepped forward, heartbroken at the thought of taking a knife to the child, and begged the king not to harm her son. By this act, King Solomon recognized that this was the real mother, and he entrusted the infant back to his mother’s loving care.

This story comes to mind as I watch with outrage the current deliberations over the Land of Israel, as strong voices urge Israel to relinquish land that has borne the name and history of the Jewish people for four millennia

Perennial adversaries of the Jewish people, and even traditional allies, have all aligned themselves with the chopping block, ready to slice up the Jewish homeland. Every excuse is given; every threat of dire circumstances, that will be the result if Israel does not agree to cut out its own heart, is articulated.

All the while, self-professed “friends” of the Jewish people have the indecency to say that this is “for Israel’s own good.”

Hearing besieged Israelis and beleaguered Jews around the world being forced under this attack to defend the importance and centrality of different pieces of the Land of Israel is much like watching a person trying to explain why both his legs and his heart are indispensible.

Pieces of the Jewish homeland have become the fodder for international debate, the heart and limbs callously severed and bandied about by those who clearly do not understand the significance that Yehuda V’Shomron, Judea and Samaria, have for the Jewish people, the significance that the Jewish soul – which we call Jerusalem – has for the Jewish people. The deepest roots a Jew can have are found in these places.

There has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel from ancient times until today, and this Jewish presence began in Judea and Samaria; this is the birthplace of the Jewish nation.

In the days of the Patriarchs, we read of our Biblical families in Shechem which is in Samaria. “Abram passed into the land as far as the site of Shechem, until the Plain of Moreh…G-d appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.’ ”(Genesis 12:6-7).

In the third generation, the Patriarch Jacob purchases land in Shechem, at the site where his son Joseph would ultimately be buried. “Jacob arrived…at the city of Shechem…He bought the parcel of land…for one hundred kesitahs.” (Genesis 33:18-19).

During the time of Joshua, the nation of Israel gathered at Shechem to renew their covenant with G-d. “Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem…Joshua made a covenant with the people that day…in Shechem.” (Joshua 24:1-25).

Shechem was the place where King Solomon’s son Rechoboam chose to be enthroned. ”Rechoboam went to Shechem, for all of Israel had come to Shechem to make him king (I Kings 12:1). With the subsequent division of the kingdom, Jeroboam established Shechem as his capital in the northern kingdom. “Jeroboam built (up) Shechem in the Mountain of Ephraim and dwelled in it…” (I Kings 12:25).

The roots of the Jewish people are found throughout Judea and Samaria, each city and holy site reflecting the history of the people of Israel in the land of Israel.

The Matriarch Rachel was buried in Bethlehem, a city in Judea. “Thus Rachel died and was buried on the road to Ephrat, which is Bethlehem. Jacob set up a monument over her grave; it is the monument of Rachel’s grave until this day.” (Genesis 35:19-20).

Centuries later, Boaz would meet Ruth in Bethlehem; she would later give birth to the line of the Davidic monarchy. King David was their great grandson. G-d instructed the prophet Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil and go forth – I shall send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have seen a king for Myself among his sons.”(I Samuel 16:1).

Jews have prayed in Bethlehem at the holy site of Kever Rachel, Rachel’s Tomb, through the centuries. Rachel is seen as a source of comfort and solace; shedding tears on behalf of her children: ”Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled…”(Jeremiah 31:14).

In 1830 the Turks issued a royal decree recognizing Jewish rights at this Jewish holy site. The governor of Damascus instructed the Mufti of Jerusalem that “the tomb of esteemed Rachel…they (the Jews) are accustomed to visit it from ancient days; and no one is permitted to prevent them or oppose them (from doing) this.”

This decree was a necessary response to the harassment that Jews had endured in trying to visit Rachel’s Tomb. At times, they were physically attacked; they often had to pay extortion money to the local Arabs to ensure free passage and to protect the holy site from vandalism.

In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore was granted permission to build a room onto Rachel’s Tomb; this was to protect both the grave and those visiting it.

Bethel, another city within these regions of Judea and Samaria, was called by the Patriarch Jacob “the gate of heaven.” It was here that Jacob dreamt of a ladder reaching to heaven. It was in Bethel that G-d gave Jacob a second name and made to Jacob the covenantal promise of the land of Israel and the people of Israel. “Then G-d said to him, ‘Your name shall not always be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name…a nation…shall descend from you, and kings shall issue from your lions. The land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, I will give to you; and to your offspring after you, I will give the land.’” (Genesis 35:10-12).

During the time of the Judges, Deborah would sit pronouncing judgments near Bethel on Mount Ephraim.

After the Israelites re-entered the Land of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, they lived according to tribe. If anyone has ever ridden on a bus in Tel Aviv, the Dan bus line is a reminder that the tribe of Dan was situated in the area of modern-day Tel Aviv, along the coast of the Mediterranean.

The tribes of Israel lived throughout the land of Israel, and they lived on both sides of the Jordan River. On the eastern bank of the Jordan River lived the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasheh.

All of the tribes of Israel would gather in Shiloh located in Samaria. Shiloh was the city of Priests where the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was kept before it was brought to Jerusalem. Shiloh was the spiritual center of Israel for centuries. “The entire assembly of the Children of Israel gathered at Shiloh and erected the Tent of Meeting there…”(Joshua 18:1).

It was in Shiloh that Hannah prayed for a son and was answered, later giving birth to the prophet Samuel.

 

And then there is Hebron in Judea. It would be difficult to find another place with more Jewish history than that which we find in the city of Hebron. Hebron was the very first place acquired by the first Jew, the Patriarch Abraham. He purchased Ma’arat HaMachpela, the cave of Machpela, in order to bury his wife Sarah. “And Abraham weighed out to Ephron…400 silver shekels…And afterwards Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre, which is in Hebron…” (Genesis 23:16-19).

The Cave of Machpelah in Hebron is the burial place for all of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs except for Rachel.

Hebron was the first capital of the kingdom of David, where David ruled for seven and a half years before then establishing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Hebron was an important city for King Hezekiah, when the Assyrians were the world’s aggressors. Hebron was also a critical military area, both at the time of the Maccabees, and during the time of Bar Kochba.

 

David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of the modern State of Israel said, “Three cities hold a great and unique place in the ancient history of our people: Shechem, Hebron, and Jerusalem…Hebron is worthy to be Jerusalem’s sister.”

In a complete affront to its millennia-long roots in Hebron, the Jewish community of Hebron was forcibly removed from there, after the massacre of 1929 and the subsequent Arab riots. In August of 1929, the Jews of Hebron, men, women, and children, were brutally massacred. The slaughter was bloody and frenzied; parents were murdered in front of their children; neither the old nor the young were spared. The Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini had been inciting the Arabs, using the pretext that Muslim holy places were under attack. Then, employing another tactic that was used then as it is today, he challenged the Jewish connection to the Kotel, the Western Wall that sits adjacent to the holy Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Despite the fact that The Supreme Muslim Council itself issued a guide to the Temple Mount in 1925 which clearly states, “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute,” there has been an ongoing attempt to obscure and deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. We are still seeing this ploy today, as those who want to destroy all evidence of Israel’s connection to the land bulldoze the archaeological remains of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, this most sacred Jewish site.  These uprooted and destroyed pieces of history are regularly discarded into the valley next to the sacred Temple Mount, from which dedicated groups and individuals work to salvage these desecrated remains.

What was the British response to the horrific massacre of 1929, as well as, to the subsequent Arab riots of 1936-39, the British, who, at the unanimous direction of the League of Nations, were tasked at that time with reconstituting the Jewish people in their historic homeland? The British reaction was not to defend the remaining Jews. Their reaction was not to affirm the ancient, historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, the connection which was recognized and ratified by all the nations of the world only a few years earlier in the Mandate that the League of Nations had entrusted to Great Britain to facilitate. On the contrary, the British response was to evacuate this ancient Jewish community and tear the Jews from their roots because England refused to stand up for the truth and confront the Arab aggression.

We see this same rejection and subversion of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria today. In fact, despite the Jewish roots that go back to the very beginning of Jewish history, these are the regions that are consistently put on the chopping block in any current discussion about Israel.

Furthermore, those Jews who live in Judea and Samaria, who simply refuse to abandon the Jewish home, history, and heritage, are regularly vilified and are the victims of verbal, economic, and even mortal assaults.

Talia and Yitzchak Ames, Avishai Schindler, and Kochava Even-Haim were massacred by Arab terrorists near Hebron in 2010. Talia and Yitchak’s six children were left as orphans, as their pregnant mother and their father were murdered for the “crime” of being Jews. These Jews were vilified for refusing to leave their home and for wanting to live near the ancient Jewish city of Hebron where a Jew purchased property nearly 4000 years ago. Avishai Schindler was a yeshiva student who had just been married. Kochava Even-Haim was a teacher who left behind an eight-year-old daughter.

We see violence perpetrated against the Jews of Samaria, as well. When Jews want to visit Joseph’s Tomb in the city of Shechem, they go under the cover of night and watchful eyes of the Israel Defense Forces, since attacks on Jews visiting the site are common.

Joseph’s bones, which the Children of Israel had brought up from Egypt, they buried in Shechem, in the portion of the field that Jacob acquired…for a hundred kesitahs; and it became a heritage for the children of Joseph.”(Joshua 24:32).

After all of the assurances that the Arab authorities supervising the area would respect this holy site, in October of 2000, the tomb of Joseph was, nonetheless, desecrated, along with the Yeshiva Od Yosef Chai, the Jewish house of study, which stood next to the tomb. The holy site was ransacked and burned. Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, one of the founders of the Yeshiva, was slain as he attempted to save the sacred site and its holy items from destruction.

In 2011, 24-year-old father of four Ben Yoseph Livnat was shot and killed as he and other Breslav Hasidim attempted to visit the tomb.

Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem has been subjected to unceasing acts of vandalism, desecration, and arson. Jews trying to visit and pray at this sacred place are repeatedly met with violence.

In Samaria, near the city of Shechem, the towns of Elon Moreh, Har Bracha, Yitzhar, and Itamar were founded. These modern communities are nestled in the hill country, with Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal towering above, “And all Israel and its elders and officers and its judges stood on this side and that of the Ark opposite the Kohanim, the Levites, bearers of the Ark of the Covenant…half of them on the slope of Mount Gerizim and half of them on the slope of Mount Ebal.”(Joshua 8:33).

The town of Itamar was named for Itamar HaKohen (Priest), son of Aaron the Priest. “The labor of the Levites was under the authority of Itamar, son of Aaron the Kohen.” (Exodus 38:21).

In March of 2011, on a Sabbath evening, Udi Fogel, 36, his wife Ruth, 35, and three of their children, Yoav, 11, Eldad, 4, and Hadas, 3 months, were brutally murdered in their home in Itamar by Arab terrorists from a neighboring town.

They were killed for the “crime” of being Jews who would not leave their home, Jews who wanted to live in the birthplace of the Jewish people.

The rejection and subversion of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria, and the violence perpetrated against the Jews in these regions, are unrelenting.

The ongoing attempt to obscure the Jewish Biblical, spiritual, historical, and legal rights to Judea and Samaria is extended further by the deceitful claim that Jews are “occupiers” in this land. Given the fact that the Land of Israel was never the sovereign country of any nation but the Jewish one, Jews cannot be deemed “occupiers” in their own land, a fact affirmed by international law.

 

The historical and religious rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel were affirmed and codified in international law at the San Remo Conference of 1920, a meeting of the Principal Allied Powers of WWI to determine the future of the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. At this conference, where international agreement was also reached regarding the establishment of other countries in the region, such as Syria, and Iraq, a binding agreement was reached between these world powers “to reconstitute the ancient Jewish State within its historic borders.”

Recognizing the ancient and continuous, historical and spiritual connection between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel, the San Remo Resolution specifically included this spiritual heartland of Samaria and Judea as part of the area designated for reestablishing the Jewish National Homeland, along with all the land that is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, all the land that currently comprises the country of Jordan, as well as, the Golan Heights and Gaza.

 

This mandate, which was then ratified by a unanimous vote of The League of Nations, affirmed the Jewish right to settle anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which is where these regions of Samaria and Judea are found. This right is enshrined to this day in international law.

The San Remo Conference, along with various treaties following World War I, succeeded in establishing independent countries sought by the Arab nationalists; Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan were all established out of what had been provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, when it came to similarly recognizing the rights of the Jewish nation to the Jewish homeland, there were those who consistently sought to prevent Jewish self-determination and sovereignty in the Jewish homeland of Israel. This was despite the fact that the world clearly recognized, by international law and treaty, the right of the Jewish nation to reestablish the Jewish National Homeland.

We continue to see this same rejection of Jewish rights to the land of Israel today. We continue to hear the persistent demand that Jews give up their homeland. And we hear the unremitting vilification of those Jews who are unwilling to do so.

What is Tisha B’Av?

On Tisha B’(the 9th day of the month of) Av, the Jewish people mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is one of the four mandatory fasts of the Jewish faith, and one of the more difficult ones, since it takes place during the heat of the summer months, starting before sundown and ending after sundown the next day. On Tisha B’Av, even pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are to fast, although they are not required to do so on the other three fast days. All are forbidden not only from eating, but also from bathing and other pleasantries that are permitted during the other fasts. The reason that the rules of mourning are so strict is that on this day, the Jewish people are remembering the greatest national catastrophe in our history. The devastation of our army, country, and the leadership of our homeland all culminated in that final tragedy, the burning of our holy Temple in our capital city, Jerusalem. The destruction of the central holy place of the nation of Israel symbolized the taking of our land and all of our dignity with it.

Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-are-we-fasting-for/2012/07/29/

What is Purim?

Purim is a meaningful celebration for the Jewish people, when we gather to remember the events of the Mordechai and Esther story at Shushan HaBira in Persia many years ago. It was after the destruction of the first Temple that the Jewish people spread out in the diaspora throughout the kingdom of the Achashverosh, who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. His evil antisemitic minister, Haman, plotted to wipe out the entire Jewish people. In the book of Esther, we read of the miraculous chain of events and the heroism of Mordechai and Esther, who put aside their own personal safety and concerns and acted to overturn the terrible decree. Our great sages, the rabbis of the Talmud, determined that these events would be marked on the Jewish calendar as a holiday to celebrate the salvation of the Jewish people throughout the ages. Halacha, the code of Jewish law by which we learn to observe the details of the Mitzvot, requirements of our faith, lists four deeds that the holiday mandates for each Jewish individual on Purim. The four Mitzvot are: Megillah, Mishloach Manot, Matanot L’Evyonim and a Festive Meal. Megillah is the book of Esther, written on a scroll of parchment which is read twice, first after the evening prayers and then again after the morning prayers on the day of Purim. Mishloach Manot means sending food to two friends, and Matanot L’Evyonim is giving charity to two needy people. After we have fulfilled these three Mitzvot, we can sit down with our family and friends and rejoice in the fourth Mitzvah, which is a festive meal in honor of the day.

What does Baal Teshuva mean?

“Baal Teshuva” is a Hebrew expression that refers to an individual who has become enhanced his or her observance of Torah. The literal translation of the term is “the possessor of the answer.” Commonly, this term is used to describe someone who was non-observant and had a life changing transition to an orthodox lifestyle. But it could also be used in reference to someone who made even a minor step to improve their ways. That could be considered ‘making’ Teshuva or ‘Oseh Teshuva’ in Hebrew. This could also be called ‘getting stronger’ – ‘Mitchazek’. A recent Israeli TV drama series, ‘Mikimi’, is based on the true life story of an Israeli TV personality who became observant.

What is Judea and Samaria?

Judea and Samaria – or Yehuda v’Shomron, in Hebrew – make up the heartland area of Israel to the south and north of Jerusalem. These regions were under Jordanian occupation from 1948 until 1967. While under Jordanian control, the region was dubbed “the West Bank” (referring to the west bank of the Jordan River), and many in the international community continue to use that terminology. For Israelis, it continues to be known by its Biblical and historical designation, Yehuda v’Shomron. In the Six Day War of June 1967, the Israeli army (IDF) liberated these areas, along with eastern Jerusalem. During the same war, Sinai was taken from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. In the early 1980s, the government of Israel extended Israeli law over all parts of Jerusalem and the Golan. But up until now, the government has refrained from declaring Judea and Samaria to be officially part of the state of Israel, and continues to negotiate its standing with the PLO. While the area has been under Israeli control for the past 47 years, many Jewish communities have grown and developed in Judea and Samaria. According to official counts, there are today some 750,000 thousand Israelis who live in over 200 towns in Judea and Samaria, and in eastern Jerusalem. The Biblical significance of this area cannot be understated, as many, many important Biblical events in the lives of the fathers and mothers of the nation of Israel occurred in the cities of this region. Road number 60 on the modern map of Israel is actually the highway of the Bible (also known as the Road of the Patriarchs) and connects the Biblical locations of Shechem, Shiloh, Beit El (Bethel), Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron and Beer Sheva, among others.

Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the time of coming of age

A Bar Mitzvah Message for Judah,

In the Jewish tradition, Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the time of coming of age, when an individual is considered big enough to be responsible for their own actions. Until this age, a child is taught by their parents to abide by the laws of the Torah on the basis of the parent’s obligation to educate their children. From this point on, the individual is accountable for his or her own deeds.

To mark this transition from childhood into the world of adult responsibilities, it is customary for the young man to be called to read from the weekly Torah portion during Shabbat morning prayers. In this week’s Torah reading, we will learn of two righteous gentiles – both of whom were of great assistance to Moses. Their help was instrumental in the path of the future leader of the Jewish people. Bitya, the daughter of Pharaoh, saved Moses’ life by taking him out of the waters of the Nile and raising him as her own. Although growing up in the royal palace, Moses would not forget the suffering of his people. Forced to flee to the desert after taking matters into his own hands, Moses again encounters a stranger named Yitro, who will not only become Moses’ father-in-law, but also a friend of Israel.

Both cases are seen as phenomenal; how much more so during the period of great oppression of the people of Israel by the superpower of the time – Pharaoh of Egypt. Based on a long historical narrative of oppression, the Jewish people have become accustomed to gentiles not liking us, to say the least, and not appreciating our laws and customs. So, understand that for the Jewish reader, these events seem out of the norm and even extraordinary. A “goy” came to the rescue – while Pharaoh had instructed all Egyptians to throw our children in the river, one Egyptian woman reached out and saved a Jewish baby. While Moses was on the run from the authorities for acts of vigilance for the Jews, a gentile priest gave him refuge and married him to his daughter.

When you read this Torah portion, consider the special challenges that each of these Biblical figures went through and how they each made the right decision to fulfill G-d’s will – even in very difficult situations. Choosing to do the right thing is not a given, but rather our ongoing challenge in this world. Your family has made extraordinary choices by deciding to align themselves with the people and G-d of Israel. Like the righteous gentiles we read about in Parashat Shemot, they could have taken the easy path and been just like everyone else. But instead, they choose to dig deeper and work harder for the real thing.

I have great appreciation for your family, their values and their true dedication to Israel. You are gifted to have a solid foundation. Now it is for you to take this foundation to use as a guide to take you through adulthood. I am sure that you will be a fine example for your younger siblings and a source of pride to your parents.

My blessings to you and best wishes of “Mazel Tov!”

David Ha’ivri

Prayer for the gathering of the Jewish people

The Temple Mount Yerushalim Ha'Benuya

The Temple Mount Yerushalim Ha’Benuya

As I was sitting in my Sukka with my family during the Holiday of Sukkot, I considered the words that we read in the special Mosaf prayer for the holiday. “Dear G-d, Because of our sins we were sent into exile from our country and distanced from our land. We are unable to go up, to see and to bow down at your holy temple because of the hand of destruction. We pray to you dear G-d and G-d of our fathers that once again you have compassion for your people and you allow us to return to the holy place and gather our people from the nations of the world, from the corners of the world”. It has been 40 years since the Great miracles of the Six Day War, and the Jewish people continue to recite these words.

But can we ignore the great outcome of those amazing events? Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, as well as Judea and Samaria came back to the hands of the Jewish people. Although we tend to complain and criticize the actions of Moshe Dayan who gave over the keys of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Walf, we should be putting more focus on celebrating the actions of Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who called for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. We should take inspiration from him and other great Jewish leaders and should demand, as well as act on our rights to pray on the Temple Mount. Although our religious freedom remains restricted on the Temple Mount, the site is open to Jewish visitors daily. Who should take advantage of even that small window of opportunity to ascend the holy place. Newcomers and first timers should consult with those experienced visitors in order to make their visit in a halachically acceptable way, especially in regards to immersing in the Mikva, and the areas and paths on the mount that are permitted to walk on. Stay focused on the vision that the Tempe Mount is the center gathering place for the Jewish people and may we once again see the entire nation of Israel gather there on the three holidays, Pesach, Shevout and Sukkot.

Chag Samach.

What is Going on at the Temple Mount?

The Israeli government can and should allow Jews freedom of prayer on the Temple Mount.
Yesterday I was detained by the Israeli police, and charged with “disorderly conduct that might cause riots.”

What I had actually been suspected of was bowing down in prayer on the Temple Mount.

The authorities are concerned that Jews praying on the Temple Mount could kick off local Muslims’ anger and that they might use this as an excuse for staging protests and riots. In their opinion, these fears are reason enough to strip law-abiding citizens of the very basic right of freedom of religion and prayer.

It is simply unacceptable that such a policy exists at all and it’s even worse that it’s based on fear of a threat that might rise by a party who might choose violence as a tool to establish facts on the ground. This is a clear case of government policy being influenced by concern over threats.

The State has a responsibility to protect its citizens’ rights and not to cave in to bullies.

Ten of the eleven gates of the Temple Mount are closed to Jews and open to Muslims at all times. Jews are permitted to enter the site only via the Mugrabi Gate on the south side of the Western Wall – and only during four hours daily on weekdays.

Jews who wish to enter the Temple Mount must go through a security check and clearance that is not mandatory for other visitors.

While non-Jews walk in freely with little or no security check, Jewish visitors are treated to pat-downs by police, who check their pockets and bags for prayer books and then warn them not to pray on the Mount. Once Jews get through all of this, they are followed by teams of police and Muslim Wakf guards who watch to see if they might be breaking the rules and praying without permission.

These special regulations for Jews are degrading and should be stopped.

A Jew who is suspected of breaking the rules by daring to whisper a prayer is likely to be arrested and brought in for questioning by the Israeli police.

In what other country would you expect a citizen to be interrogated for praying? Can you imagine the police officer saying, “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law…” and then “you are suspected of praying . . . “?

This is no joke – I have personally have had the honor of going through this ordeal.

Israel should apply its efforts to maintaining law and order by arresting and questioning those who present a threat of disorderly conduct or rioting – and not those law-abiding people who simply wish to pray.

If the police would shift their focus from restricting Jewish visits and prayer on the Temple Mount towards monitoring those who pose a threat to that freedom, they would be able, in a few actions, to stabilize a workable reality on the Temple Mount in which Jews could have free access to pray on the holy mountain.

Instead of intimidating worshipers by patting them down for prayer books and warning them not to pray, they should be patting down those suspicious figures that might be inciting violence against the worshipers. Incitement coming out of the Mosque should be monitored if it becomes a platform for harassment of Jewish visitors to the site.

Reassignment of resources used to police the Temple Mount could easily bring changes that would allow Jews freedom of prayer at the holy site, as would be expected of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country.

It is time to bring about that change, and to stop the discrimination against Jews in our homeland and holy city, at our holiest site.

BDS and Chanukah

Chanukah is one of the favorite festivals of Jewish people around the world. Groups from both ends of the Jewish spectrum – from the most pious to those who are distant from traditional observance – share this celebration. The main ceremony included in this holiday of lights is the lighting of the candles of the Menorah, to remember the great miracle we celebrate. The story goes that the eight days of Chanukah commemorate the miracle of a small amount of oil lasting for eight days instead of just one day.

This miracle, which took place on the liberated Temple Mount in (East) Jerusalem, symbolizes the even greater miracle of the few untrained and under-armed Jewish soldiers of Yehudah Maccabee, who gained amazing victories over a well-trained and equipped Greek army.

Today, BDS is a movement that calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as a means of punishing Israel for controlling Judea and Samaria (also known as “the West Bank”). Israel has controlled this area for the past 45 years, since the defensive Six Day War in which the tiny Jewish state was forced to defend itself when surrounding Arab nations attacked simultaneously on all fronts, attempting to push the Jews into the sea.

Before this 1967 war, our borders were based on 1949’s cease-fire lines, cooperatively drawn up at Rhodes after Israel’s War of Independence. After the Six Day War, legendary Israeli statesman Abba Eben stated, “We shudder when we think of what would have awaited us in the circumstances of June, 1967, if we had been defeated; with Syrians on the mountains and us in the valley, with the Jordanian army in sight of the sea, with the Egyptians who hold our throat in their hands in Gaza. This is a situation which will never be repeated in history.”

Still, the BDS movement wishes to pressure Israel to relinquish its control over this vital area in order to establish a Palestinian state there.

Among other things the leaders of this movement fail to realize is the fact that the Jewish claim to Judea and Samaria dates much further back than 1967, and that the attachment is not just based on modern practical strategic value.

Chanukah is the Jewish national holiday that celebrates taking our country back from foreign imperialists. In addition to the overwhelming number of Torah events placed in this region, it is interesting to note that all the major battles the Maccabees fought were in locations that were not under Israeli control before the 1967 war. The area that many call “the West Bank” was the exact same area liberated by the historic Hasmonean heroes of the Jewish people back then, so the return of that land to Jewish control forms the basis of the Chanukah festival.

The Jewish rebellion against the Greek imperialists began in Modi’in – now considered a part of the West Bank – and spread throughout this area. Under the leadership of Matityahu the Cohen, who cried out in the city with a loud voice, “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come with me!” The city took on self-rule, and all male children were circumcised in fulfillment of Jewish code, which had been outlawed by the Greeks. Collaborators were punished. Matityahu’s son Yehudah then took the lead in the battles outside of Modi’in. The first and most impressive was the battle of Wadi el-Haramiah in Shomron (just south of my home). The Assyrian force under the command of Greek governor Apollonius was defeated, and the sword of Apollonius was taken by Yehudah the Maccabee, who used it in battle for the rest of his life.

Read the book of Maccabees to learn more about the many victories to the north in Shomron and to the south in Yehuda. The climax of this war was liberation of the Temple Mount, followed by the lighting of the great Menorah at the site of the holy Temple. How symbolic that the emotional historic echo was heard so clearly 1803 years later, at the climax of 1967’s Six Day War when General Moti Gur stood at the same spot and declared, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”

My advice to the BDS movement is that if they hope to detach the Jewish people from Judea and Samaria, they would be wise to boycott Chanukah.

Published on YourMiddleEast.com

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