Jewish sages say the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, which is marked on the fast of Tisha Be’av beginning Saturday night, can be attributed to sinat chinam, or baseless hatred between Jewish people at the time.
MK Yehudah Glick (Likud), known for his activism for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, the former site of the destroyed center of Jewish worship, knows a thing or two about the Temple. And after more than two months as a member of Knesset, he has some things to say about baseless hatred.
One of the first things that struck Glick upon becoming a lawmaker at the end of May was the way MKs spoke to and treated one another.
“I saw it in the committees, in the plenum, people screaming at each other and not listening to one another,” Glick told The Jerusalem Post
this week. “I said to myself, this is something I would like to work on, changing the whole dialogue and level of conversation, and turn it into something more civilized, so people listen and respect each other."
“We need to respect differences of opinion. We are all here because we want to do good according to what we understand. There are wonderful, serious people in the Knesset,” he added.
Glick expressed concern that the way MKs address one another reverberates outward to the public, and especially to youth, pointing to language on social media as an example of that, and saying such things can lead to physical violence.
“We have to change our level of speech,” he stated. “I don’t accept people making fun of and insulting others, and I think the first step is setting an example and trying to talk to people.”
Glick has been spotted putting his idea into action, trying to calm down MKs Moshe Gafni (UTJ) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) during an especially heated debate in the plenum. He’s also taken to complimenting his colleagues on social media. And, despite his opposition to land concessions and a Palestinian state, he took part in a conference organized by left-wing MKs and NGOs on Israel’s “crimes” in the West Bank.
“On almost every issue, I try to listen and to really hear every side and not automatically think the way I’m expected to. I’m against the whole idea of putting yourself into a drawer and saying ‘I only belong here,’” Glick said.
For example, Glick did not vote in favor of a bill prohibiting Reform and Conservative converts from using Israeli mikvaot, even though the coalition’s position was for it. However, he supported the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) position on not requiring their schools to teach the state core curriculum. In both cases, he argued for citizens to have freedom to make choices without government intervention.
Glick’s mission of civility also extends to lawmakers who didn’t treat him the same way. For example, Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen Paran, who announced before Glick was sworn in that she would walk out on his inaugural speech, and kept her promise.
The two legislators were spotted eating lunch together in a Knesset cafeteria weeks later.
“I specifically went over and said hello to her,” Glick recounted. “I’m not here to fight with anybody. I try not to talk badly about anybody... We talked about the issues and found we have a lot of common denominators... Cohen Paran talks a lot about environmental issues, and I signed one of her bills promoting solar energy.”
Glick didn’t even have a bad word to say about MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List), a pariah to many in the Knesset.
Referring to a recent scuffle between Zoabi and other lawmakers, Glick said: “Not everything she said is 100 percent legitimate, but I think the reaction was much worse. [MKs] could have ignored her. They could have responded differently... If the ushers weren’t there, I think people would have beaten her up.”
Glick said his views on an appropriate public discourse come from his American background, “the idea of liberalism and respecting other opinions has deep roots in Western society.”
The MK’s activism for equal rights for Jewish worshipers on the Temple Mount comes from a similar idea.
“The Temple Mount is a world center for peace for all nations. The only reason people fight is because they feel threatened by one another. If different religions pray for the one and only God in one place, we can be like one big orchestra playing different instruments... [that] add to one another, as long as we don’t get in each other’s way,” Glick said.
Glick referred to a verse from Isaiah, referring to the Temple as “a house of worship for all nations,” tying together Tisha Be’av and drawing parallels between the role the Knesset and that of the Temple.
“The Holy Temple is a place that unites different people,” he said. “The opposite of the Holy Temple was the Tower of Babel, where everyone thought alike. That was like the Soviet Union, when if you thought differently, you could be killed. The Holy Temple allowed for everyone’s uniqueness.”
The reason baseless hatred destroyed the Temple, he explained is because, “when you learn to respect others, then we can have a Temple. If people are fighting, then the Temple isn’t serving its mission and it has no legitimacy.”