What a day. We decided to do the impossible and take a whole family of 5 to Har Habayit – the Temple Mount – in the thick of Hol HaMoed Pesach, on the day of the massive Bircat Kohanim. I left for the mikveh at 5am, and we left the house by 6:21am, and found parking by Liberty Bell Park at 7:30. We got to Sha’ar HaMugrabim by 8:15 after making sure all the kids bladder tanks were empty.
By 8:15 the Kotel Plaza was crowded, but nowhere near as crowded as it would be an hour later. There was nobody at Sha’ar HaMugrabim. The Gentile tourists passed us as they always do, while we went through the wringer, as always.
My two girls were really excited because I explained that we were going to Hashem’s house, and almost everyone else was only going up to the door and stopping there. We were going inside. My wife and I explained that when they go to a friend’s house, they don’t just stay at the door. They want to go inside to say hi and play.
The older one asks why they all wait at the door. I say because they are scared of Hashem and think He’ll be mad at them if they go inside. I say there is nothing to be afraid of, as long as you are nice, like at a friend’s house.
We wait for an hour. The 9 month old baby is taking it pretty well, crawling all over the floor picking up pebbles and trying to eat them. The two girls are a bit restless but they’re doing ok. Tanks have been emptied, no peepee emergencies.
The police tell us we are not allowed to eat, so my kids cannot snack. But the guards are allowed to smoke cigarettes right in front of my kids. And eat. They are The State. We are Their Slaves. That’s how IT GOES.
Some secular guy joins us and explains to me that Jews aren’t really allowed to go to Har Habayit “Din Torah” because they’ll get Karet, religious excision, or however it’s translated. I tell him that the way he dresses is assur and he’s getting Karet because he’s dressed like a goy, and is עובר חוקת הגוים. I point to the Haredi kid in the black kaputteh and hat in front of me and say, “He’s OK. You’re not. Dress like him or you’re getting Karet. Din Torah.”
He tries to defend himself and I keep saying Karet Karet Karet, sorry. Nothing you can do. Those clothes, Karet. Eventually he leaves me alone.
The State tells us we are not allowed to go the full route around the Mount. We are only going one gate length to the left and leaving. One guy encourages us to argue with the police up there. I see this as totally futile and will just get them in trouble. If all the sea of Jews hanging around dallying at the Wall decided to join us, then we could do something. But we are only a group of 10, my kids included. Everyone else is staying at the door.
Predictably, the ones that argued got kicked off and banned.
One Jewish lady somehow manages so walk past our guard. She is caught at the top. Our guard is chewed out for letting the woman pass. “If she looks Jewish, you have to stop her! If you don’t know how to do that go home!”
We are finally allowed up after an hour of having goyim step over us. One of them had asked us, “What are you all waiting for?”
“We’re Jews,” I say. “We go to the left.”
The trick to going to Har Habayit is keeping focused on the positive. The positive is, we are The Few. The tiny sliver that will go inside, and thank God for at least that. I’m excited to go up now. We get moving, up the bridge.
By this time, about 9:30am, the Kotel Plaza is totally, absolutely packed. From the Wall all the way back to the stairs, all the way up them, there is no standing room. We lonely souls trot up the bridge, looking down at the sea of Jews all waiting at the wall of the House but dare not go inside. They are afraid. Afraid of God. I am, too. But I have to go in. I don’t get much religious inspiration these days from almost any religious activities. I’ve always been a rationalist, not a mystic. Not so spiritual. But when I go up there I am a religious being. I’m scared, but I know I have to go.
Why is it that everyone asks why we go to Har Habayit and what are you supposed to do up there, but nobody asks why we go to the Wall, and what we’re supposed to do down there?
There’s a picture at my neighbors house of the Kotel. On top, on Har Habayit in the picture, is the completed Beit HaMikdash, as it should be. But there’s something seriously wrong with the picture. The people in the painting are still praying at the Wall, and no one is on Har Habayit itself, in the picture of the future. The Wall obsession, this strange disease, is so prevalent it has infected even our messianic art visions of the future.
We continue up, and I show my kids the sea of Jews below. They oooh and ahhh. We continue up, and the Allahu Akbars begin. As we head left, they get louder. My older daughter on my left, my second daughter on my right, holding each by the hand as the screaming Arab women close in. The baby is on my wife’s back behind me. The girls are a bit taken aback, but they do not cry. I tell them people will scream at them but they will not hurt them. I promise them. They don’t want us to be in Hashem’s house but they will only scream, not hit. They hold my hands tight.
I try to point out the Dome of the Rock to them, the place where Hashem’s House used to be and will be again. The screams of the Arab women are deafening.
I’m not sure if my girls can even hear me. But they do not cry. Neither does Fry, the baby.
At the peak of the screaming, I spread out my arms, still holding my girls’ hands, trying to take up as much space as possible, as if to suck up all the screaming with my body and absorb it, take strength from it, soak it in and have it energize me. I’m starting to like it. In a sort of masochistic way I guess. I want the Allahu Akbars to get louder and they do.
And then I notice a little girl, right on front of me. Just a bit bigger than my 4 year old. She must be either 6 or 7, nothing more than that. The look in her eye is of pure hatred. She’s shrieking. I’m still walking, and the space between us narrows. She’s right in front of me now.
I look at her, I smile.
And I blow her a raspberry.
And she giggles.
And then she continues shrieking.
We take a picture and head off, stepping backwards off Har Habyit, and begin dancing.