“Too Jewish” for the Temple Mount – Shalom Pollack
I know this is not hard news, but it happened to me, a tour guide, just yesterday.
I carefully thought out my preparations for the experience I was
planning for my tourists on the Temple Mount.
I went to the Mikva (ritual immersion) early that morning. and made
sure to wear non-leather shoes as Halacha (Jewish law) instructs.
Then I prepared my backpack and the contents of my pockets, making
sure there was nothing that could incriminate me at the security
check before entering the site. My Tzitzit (ritual fringes) were
well tucked into my pants. I wore a hat and hid my kippa in a secret
compartment (I can’t disclose where – who knows who might be reading
As we approached the security check I was confident that I would pass
by as easily as the other non-Jewish visitors. But then I recognized Motti the
Israeli police officer who has won a reputation for his keen sense of
smell. He can detect a Jew a mile away. He looked me over and I
thought I had passed when I was discovered.
All my fault. I had forgotten an
obvious thing! I totally had forgotten about a small prayer I had,
composed by the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu on behalf of Jonathan
Pollard. I was caught red handed!
Policeman Motti demanded to know if I knew what
this was! I said, “Yes, a prayer for our brother Jonathan Pollard”. Motti
frowned and declared that it is forbidden material and was being
confiscated. I could pick it up later. I was warned not to pray or make
I asked myself how Jews like Motti could allow themselves to be used this way
– in the very heart of what is most holy to our people. What do they tell their families when they come
home from another day’s work?
How shocked I felt, as the long line of visitors filed by.
As I was being questioned and threatened by Motti I was wondering if these visitors
realized that I just did not succeed in passing for one of them!
Fifteen minutes later I was allowed to join my rather shaken tourists
on the Mount. But the best was yet to come. As we proceeded, I heard a chanting din
coming from another part of the mountain.
It sounded much like the chanting of Arab rioters that I
have heard so often in the media.
Coming towards me was an elderly bearded man dressed in classic ultra-
Orthodox attire. He was accompanied by a few young boys – also not
trying to hide their Jewish appearance but with a distinct look of
fear in their eyes after running the gauntlet of threats and taunts by
an Arab crowd moments before.
I greeted the elderly man warmly and he responded as one greeting a stranger on
a desert island. He and his little group were shadowed by two police
men making sure that they did not move their lips in prayer and thus
arouse the sensibilities and ire of the Arabs. (I wondered how the
Arab boys playing soccer on the holy site did not upset their
sensibilities…). Our meeting was immediately reported by the nervous
police escort as the walkie talkies came alive.
After we parted and proceeded alone, I realized that we were being
watched not only by the police but a large group of “Arab youth”
who had marked us by our association with the bearded Jew.
It was now our turn. They dogged us with chants of “Allah hu Akbar”!
The yelling of their God’s name spurred them on to
increasing taunts and threats as they also tried to bump into us.
The police were not there to stop this. Of course not – they were not
praying to the God of Israel.
Once rid of this threat, we proceeded alone. I was suddenly
ashamed of myself. The elderly Jewish man and children did not try to
hide their identity or fool Motti at the gate. They underwent the
humiliations as Jews — not hiding in the shadows of a false identity –
certainly not in Jerusalem, not on the holiest site in the world!
I removed my hat and place my kippa on my head. I let my tzizit out
to fly like a Jewish flag.
The response was not long in coming. It was so interesting to watch
the reaction of the Arab men, women and small children: the hate in
their eyes, the curses on their lips and the spit out of their mouths.
My tourists were not Jewish. After this experience they said they were
so very pleased to stand with the Jewish people in this clearest of
choices to be made. They felt they had been given the opportunity to stand with
good vs evil on this day.
No, this might not have been a newsworthy experience but for me and my
tourists it was an unforgettable one.
Shalom Pollack is active in Mattot Arim. He is a tour guide www.shalompollacktours.co.il
and lives in Jerusalem.
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