One and a half years after surviving four bullets fired by a terrorist intended to silence him for his Temple Mount activism, Yehuda Glick, who has become the face of the Jewish struggle for prayer rights at the contested site, ascended the plateau for the first time on Tuesday.
In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, the right-wing activist discussed what went through his mind upon reentering the volatile compound that he has risked his life to ensure can be visited freely by Jews and Muslims alike.
Asked if he was nervous or fearful about the prospect of returning, Glick, 50, who leads the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation which seeks to build a third temple on Judaism’s holiest site, said no.
“Not at all,” he said. “The whole visit was planned with the police in advance. I was more excited than nervous. It was a ‘Thanksgiving’ visit after going through a lot over the last one and a half years – the trial and health treatments.
Baruch Hashem [Bless God], both those things are behind me.”
Indeed, last Thursday the Jerusalem District Court cleared Glick of wrongdoing in a purported assault complaint filed by a Muslim woman who accused him of pushing her in August of 2014 on the Temple Mount, resulting in his being barred entry from the site until the case was settled.
“There were a lot of challenges, a lot of struggles, but thanks to God, to Israel’s medical system, my lawyers, and my wife, when we saw the trial was coming to an end I spoke with police to plan a visit,” he said.
Glick described Tuesday morning’s 30 minute return, during which he was accompanied by roughly eight police officers, his wife, attorney Yitzhak Bam, and two close friends, as “something out of this world.”
“It was very exciting,” he said. “When I was in a coma after I was shot, my wife said, ‘I am sure we will return to the mount again,’ and the very moment we woke up this morning at 5 a.m.
and drove there, it was something very great.”
To mentally prepare himself for the possible harassment and anti-Semitic taunts he has long endured by Muslim hecklers every visit, Glick said that he would not allow himself to become rattled.
“Before I ascend, I always remind myself to ignore the noise and concentrate as much as I can about thanking God for going there,” he said. “There may have been one or two instances of harassment today, but I totally ignored everything, and the police were quite aware and detected any possible threats.”
Noting that the Supreme Court forbids any detectable form of Jewish prayer at the site – considered a “disturbance of the public order” by the Wakf Muslim religious trust, which oversees the compound – Glick said he nonetheless prayed intensely, if only with his heart.
“No police can prevent someone from praying, it is an internal activity,” he said. “I did not vocalize any prayer, but in my heart recited almost the entire Book of Psalms.”
Pressed about claims among Muslims and many Israelis that he is a provocateur who is dangerously imperiling the longstanding status quo and risking more violence by visiting the site, Glick responded that by not going he would be capitulating to terrorism.
“Since the beginning of Zionism, we always knew not to allow terrorism to run our agendas, schedules and daily lives,” he said. “The person who shot me didn’t shoot me because of the color of my beard, he shot me because I symbolize the connection to Am Yisrael and Jerusalem.”
“I don’t think we should allow anybody who shares his ideology to beat us,” he continued.
“We should continue our lives by holding an ideology of peace. That is the best way to cope with terrorism.”
Moreover, Glick contended that despite the Chief Rabbinate’s mandate forbidding Jews from entering the site due to impurity, “We have to go there to show that Jews are a natural presence on the Temple Mount.”
Still, not all Israelis viewed his return through a positive lens.
Citing the terrorism wave that has engulfed the capital since October – after the government banned a male and female group from the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement from the site for harassing Jews – Dr. Meir Margalit, who formerly held the municipality’s east Jerusalem portfolio and has long championed Palestinian rights, accused Glick of profound recklessness.
“He is a kind of pyromaniac,” said the former Meretz councilman of Tuesday’s visit. “During this specific time when the situation in Jerusalem is so risky, so dangerous, to do an act like this is to put more gasoline on the fire.”
“This is not a theological problem, it’s a political problem. And people should decide what kind of city they want us to live in: In a violent city filled with bloodshed, or a place we can live in some kind of harmony.”
“People like Yehuda Glick” Margalit continued, “take us to more bloodshed.”
“The living situation will be so impossible that Arabs and Jews will suffer in the same way,” he said. “Nobody can win with this kind of attitude.
We will all lose together.”