What is Zionism without the Temple Mount?
"The Surrender of the Temple Mount and the Long Defeat of Zionism," by Shiloh Soffer.
The date was 7th of June 1967, The IDF had just liberated the Temple Mount from the Arabs in a stunning military victory. The Temple mount was in Jewish hands for the first time in nearly 2000 years, and the Israeli Soldiers were wandering around in an almost dreamlike state.
It was at this point, a few hours after the Temple Mount was liberated that an extraordinary conversation took place. The conversation was between Gen. Uzi Narkiss and IDF chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, and it varies depending on which version of the story you believe.
According to Narkiss’s Version, Goren suggested that they pack the Dome of the Rock with 100Kg of explosives and ‘rid themselves of it once and for all’ . He told Narkiss that his name would go down in the history books, and that this was their golden opportunity because tomorrow it would already be too late. Narkiss refused, telling Goren that he was already assured of his place in the history of Jerusalem, and that he would throw Goren in Jail if he did not desist. Goren walked away dejectedly.
Another version of the story according to Goren’s former aid Rabbi Menachem HaCohen, says that Goren told Narkiss that it would not have been a ‘terrible shame’ if during the course of the war, a bomb would have dropped on the shrine obliterating it. Narkiss replied saying that he was glad this did not happen.
Both versions agree that Goren made the suggestion to blow up the mosque, and that Narkiss refused.
In a tape recording of a speech made in 1967 to a military convention, Goren could be heard saying:
“I told this to the defence minister (Moshe Dayan) and he said, ‘I understand what you are saying, but do you really think we should have blown up the mosque?’ and I said, ‘Certainly we should have blown it up.’
“It is a tragedy for generations that we did not do so. … I myself would have gone up there and wiped it off the ground completely so that there was no trace that there was ever a Mosque of Omar there.”
A short time after the liberation of the Temple Mount, the decision was made to return the keys of the Temple Mount to the Waqf, In what must be considered in hindsight, as one of the greatest missed opportunities in Jewish history, when an ideological defeat was somehow snatched from the Jaws of an extraordinary military victory.
Just what was the message that was sent out by the Israeli government when they made this historic blunder? That we do not really belong here? We do not know what we are doing here? Take it! You were here first? If these rootless Zionists thought that they could trade the Temple Mount in exchange for peaceful co-existence with the Arabs, then history has proven that they were very much mistaken, and the struggle for the Temple Mount remains at the core of the Israel-Arab conflict. The ramifications of that fateful decision have now returned to haunt us.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism, but the Arabs cannot and will never accept the right of Jews to pray there. The entire Arab world understands that if they were to accept the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, it would be a tacit admission that the Jewish life in Israel predates the Arab presence in the land. This would not only undermine the Arab claim to Jerusalem but also their claim to the land of Israel, and call the entire Arab narrative into question.
For their part, the Israeli government has always seen the Temple Mount as something of an unwanted burden. Israel was founded as a western style democracy and a secular state, and successive Israeli governments have understood that Temple Mount has the potential to alter the secular nature of the state of Israel and act as a catalyst which could transform Israel into a religious state. They are also fearful that upsetting the delicate status quo on the Temple Mount could spark a religious war with the Arabs that would leave Israel isolated, and threaten the very existence of the Jewish State. In Short the Israeli government has neither the will or the backbone to uphold the Jewish right of prayer on the Temple Mount.
In fact, the decision to hand the Keys to the Temple Mount to the Arabs is a prime example of how the land for peace formula is a flawed concept and should be consigned to the dust bin of history. It is this rootless Zionist mentality of Israel’s leaders that has caused the borders of the state of Israel to recede, encouraged our enemies, and led to a long defeat of Zionism over the past 40 years. And by surrendering sovereignty over our holiest site we have called into question our historic right to our ancestral homeland. After all, it is this same rootless Zionist mentality that has led us to bring Judea and Samaria to the negotiating table and agree to discuss the status of certain settlements. By agreeing to negotiate over these settlements the Israeli government have not only undermined the legitimacy of the rest of the settlements in Judea and Samaria, but the legitimacy of The Jewish State itself.
If Israel has no right to the Temple Mount, then it has no right to Judea and Samaria. If Israel has no right to Judea and Samaria, then what right does it have to Haifa, Tel Aviv or Beersheba? The last thing Israel needs is the emergence of a terrorist entity in Judea and Samaria, akin to the regime in Gaza, with designs over the rest of Israel. In other words, the more we cut away from the cloth of Zionism, the more our enemies will be encouraged by this and continue to tug at its threads, in the hope it will come apart at the seams or even unravel entirely.
The Israeli government fails to understand that Israel is no ordinary land, it is the Land that God promised to his chosen people, a Holy land, and by attempting to carve it up like just another piece of real estate they are not only going against traditional Jewish values, but against God himself and the principles of Judaism. If the Land of Israel can be compared to a delicious cake, then Jerusalem would surely be the icing on this cake, and the Temple Mount would be the cherry on top of the icing on the cake.
But Zionism has not been defeated yet, and the war is far from over. In order for us to prevail, we must be prepared to fight for what is most precious to us, and to return to traditional Jewish values. The holiday of Chanukah commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple, and the message of Chanukah is to bring light into dark places. If ever the Temple Mount needed re-dedication it is now. And what darker place is there than the Temple Mount at the moment?
For Israel to achieve success, we must invoke the spirit of the Maccabees and be more assertive and proactive to uphold our rights as Jews. If we take the first steps by ourselves God will surely reciprocate and support us. Perhaps what we really need right now is a Chanukah miracle.
Article by Shiloh Soffer, originally published on December 16, 2014, on Times of Israel Blog. Shiloh was born in England and graduated from University with an Bachelor’s degree in Chemical engineering. In 2005, Shiloh moved to Israel and spent a couple of years working in the engineering industry. He later moved back to London to further his career. Shiloh has recently made Aliyah for the second time, and hopes to settle in Israel permanently.