Op-Ed: Jerusalem Syndrome

Day marking anniversary of liberation, unification of J'lem in Six Day War isn't a national holiday; reminds gov't of liability.

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount 390 (photo credit: Ilan Evyatar)
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount 390
(photo credit: Ilan Evyatar)
Jerusalem Day, to be observed this week on May 8, marks the 46th anniversary of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. The return of Jerusalem, greatest and most decisive of all Israel’s military victories, opened floodgates of emotion that ran deep in the nation’s collective heart.
So why isn’t Jerusalem Day observed as a national holiday in the manner of Independence Day? Or perhaps the real question is, what exactly is it that we are celebrating? The sad truth is that the government of Israel suffers from a hereditary disease – let’s call it “Jerusalem Syndrome” albeit of a different nature than the popularized version. The contagion made its first appearance on June 7, 1967, moments after Mordechai “Motta” Gur’s famous words, “The Temple Mount is in our hands,” and shortly before Moshe Dayan handed the keys back to the Islamic Wakf.
On that day, IDF chief rabbi Shlomo Goren stood on the Temple Mount and studied the Mount of Olives with binoculars. He was scouting for a suitable area to bring the fallen paratroopers to burial as soon as possible. The IDF commanders relayed him a message from the government: Don’t make plans for burial in the Mount of Olives... we have no intention of staying.
The government of Israel considered the reunification of Jerusalem and especially the Temple Mount to be a liability from the get-go.
An article in last week’s Hebrew-language Makor Rishon featured minutes from the protocols of the first meeting of the “Ministerial Committee on the Status of United Jerusalem,” held a mere two days after the war was concluded. That meeting was focused on how to stem the unbridled feeling of nationalism that resulted from the liberation of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
A great deal of remorse was expressed over what then minister-without-portfolio Menachem Begin termed the “unfortunate” incident of the Israeli flag briefly being flown over the Jewish people’s holiest site, the location of the Holy of Holies in the Temple – the Dome of the Rock. The unauthorized flag had been hoisted by a errant lone solider. It was removed after four hours. Israel didn’t want her flag flying over the Temple Mount then. Nowadays, foreign – and hostile – flags are flown freely over the Temple Mount, with impunity; flags of the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and others.
Those present at that meeting vied with each other as to the best way to express unequivocal sensitivity to Muslim concerns, and assure the Arab population that Israel had no intentions of injecting any form of Jewish identity into our holiest site, opting to replace its significance with that of the Western Wall. As everyone knows, the Islamic Wakf was given full authority to establish and enforce the rules at the Temple Mount.
So while Israel is a veritable beacon of human rights and religious tolerance for other faiths, Jews are denied the basic right to pray at their holiest site, the Temple Mount.
Every day, hundreds of tourists waiting in line to ascend the Mount stand by incredulously as they witness the selection, separation and degradation of Jews in the Jewish state, who are forced to identify themselves and are warned against praying, moving their lips, closing their eyes, crying, singing, bowing down, or any other action that could be perceived as “incitement” against Muslim religious sensitivities. When they finally do ascend it is in carefully limited groups, while their every step and movement is monitored by aggressive, intrusive Wakf agents.
The astounding fact is that Israel never intended to liberate the Old City of Jerusalem, and the event was viewed more as an accident than a miracle. Without the maverick Rabbi Goren’s personal initiative to push the IDF to liberate the Old City, Jerusalem’s reunification would probably never had happened at all.
Israel’s government simply did not know what to do with this liability; subsequently this odd “Jerusalem Syndrome” has been the legacy of every successive Israeli government since, and is the key to understanding our nation’s attitudes and actions regarding “the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel.”
Without understanding the significance and importance of the Temple Mount, without understanding why Jerusalem is our capital and the soul of our people, Jerusalem Day is meaningless.
It’s not a simple issue of sovereignty or nationalism. The Temple Mount represents the destiny of the Jewish people to be a light to the nations. It is the prophetic vision of a world united, of Jerusalem’s beauty flowing out to all humanity. It is the secret of what the Jewish people can become, what they can bring to the world.
Hiding from responsibility for the Temple Mount means we are hiding from ourselves. The thunderous Hebrew words of General Motta Gur’s immortal statement, "har habayit beyadeinu" (The Temple Mount is in our hands) also convey another meaning: The Temple Mount... is in our hands. How we choose to deal with it, and all that it means for the people of Israel, is up to us.
The writer, a rabbi, is the director of the international department of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem. For over three decades the Temple Institute has been dedicated to every aspect of the Biblical commandment to build the Holy Temple. Through its research and educational programming, the Institute seeks to highlight the universal significance of the Holy Temple as a house of peace and prayer for all nations.