Mourning a self-imposed exile

For the first time in history, we’ve abandoned our holiest site voluntarily rather than under duress.

July 15, 2013 13:45
Orthodox Jews look out Temple Mount

Orthodox Jews look out Temple Mount 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Ever since Jerusalem was liberated in 1967, Tisha Be’Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple that falls this week, has sparked debates over whether continued mourning is appropriate when rebuilt Jerusalem is flourishing in a reestablished Jewish state. Yet the day provides a needed reminder of the degree to which, even in Israel, Jews remain in a self-imposed exile: For the first time in history, we have ceded control of our holiest site voluntarily rather than against our will.

The good news, as a new poll shows, is that Israel’s Jews are starting to grasp the inappropriateness of this abdication: Though only a minority favors rebuilding the Temple, solid majorities agree both that Israel should reassert control of the Temple Mount and that it should use this control to enable Jews as well as Muslims to pray there, just as it does at Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs (Machpela). The bad news is that we remain far from translating this realization into practice.


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