Yet, I am shocked, but somehow not surprised, to read the headline on the next morning’s New York Times: “East Jerusalem Bubbling Over With Despair: The Frustration Behind a Series of Stabbings.” Amazing! Instead of condemnation, we are once again treated to rationalization and the growingly tiresome moral equalization of the murderer and his victim. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and a gaggle of their lapdogs dredge up obsolete arguments and antiquated slights, such as the “settlement problem,” to justify fresh attacks and outrages. To adapt an oft-used phrase from the Gemara, “Settlements mann dekar shemom? Who has even uttered the word settlement throughout this killing spree?” Even our sworn enemies didn’t mention the so-called new cities rising again in our land. The murders carried the clear imprimatur of a pogrom or religious war, not a political or territorial battle.
However, there is one issue that does bear discussion and cries out for a Torah viewpoint. Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The Atlantic last week, reveals “the paranoid supremacist roots of the stabbing intifada,” the title of his penetrating article. Looking back at the 1929 Chevron riots and similar events, Goldberg demonstrates that ever since Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, partnered with Hitler to destroy Am Yisroel, the Muslim leadership has incited their followers to believe that the Jewish people, before and after the creation of the State of Israel, wish to take away their control of the entire Har Habayis, including the mosques. To promote this narrative, “Muslim officials distributed fabricated photographs of a damaged Dome of the Rock, and spread the rumor that Jews had attacked the shrine.”
Goldberg goes on to prove conclusively that the Muslim leadership has consistently attempted to brainwash their own people and convince the world that we have no rights to any part of the Har Habayis, including our beloved Kosel Hamaarovi.
Now, strangely enough, at this moment, the gedolei Yisroel and the secular government of the State of Israel are in agreement that Jews should not be going up to the Har Habayis. It is, of course, disgusting and demeaning that the Jews who do go, believing that there are places where it is halachically permissible, are forbidden through an agreement with the Moslem Waqf, which protects Moslem interests, from praying or even closing their eyes in silent kavanah. Nevertheless, the gedolei Yisroel forbid entering the entire area for fear of treading where all of us who are tamei may not go
Rav Betzalel Zolty, the late rov of Yerushalayim, concluded that “it is a possible kareis prohibition and certainly a transgression of the obligation to show awe and trepidation for the Bais Hamikdosh and its location (Torah Shebaal Peh Journal 10:45). Rav Ovadiah Yosef, in the same issue (page 61), forbids entry until Moshiach arrives and we are purified. More recently, Rav Moshe Shternbuch, raavad of Yerushalayim, issued a strong condemnation of all who go up to the Har Habayis, for both reasons of ritual purity and the prohibition to incite the gentiles to wage war and wreak havoc. He makes clear, as have done all major poskim since Talmudic times, that we have no interest or purpose in ascending anywhere near the area where the current mosque is until Moshiach has arrived. All those who do so transgress both halachic and state law at this time.
We, too, must be very careful not to enter into the trap prepared by our enemies. There is, of course, no justification ever to slaughter innocent people, the New York Times and its ilk notwithstanding. However, it is worth telling the world that the overwhelming majority of Jews are now unified that we have no interest whatsoever in destroying, taking over or conquering the mosques on the Har Habayis. On the contrary, even if they were not there at all, we would not go, so any incitements on the part of the Muslims are a patent lie. While it is clear that we consider the entire area to be part of the Bais Hamikdosh, which we certainly assert to be our own, we declare to the world that we have no intention at of all seizing anything from anyone. This is spoken neither out of fear nor political concerns. It is our own internal decision-making, based upon ancient and eternal principles.
While clearly none of this will convince our enemies of anything, there are numerous people and perhaps entire countries still unconvinced and equivocal about the current conflict. There is now a unique opportunity to make a united statement about our intentions toward the Har Habayis and its environs. Of course, we need to make sure that the Muslims do not, as they have in the past, engage in the destruction of ancient irreplaceable artifacts, as their radicals have done to their own relics. However, for this we can surely put in whatever safeguards we need to satisfy our own concerns. Let us never confuse what it is that we need to do bring Moshiach with what Moshiach will do for us when he comes, bimeheirah beyomeinu.