A house of prayer for all peoples?

On Simchat Torah (Festival of the Rejoicing of the Law/Last Great Day) I went up to the Temple Mount with my Bible to pray. Although I don’t usually wear a yarmulke (skull cap), I did take one.

My first challenge was getting past the guards near the entrance to the Temple Mount; if they saw me with my bible they wouldn’t let me in. I silently prayed all the way to the site where the Temple of God stood twice, and will be rebuilt for the third and last time, so I could enter. I passed the guards.

Are you saying that Jewish guards prevent Christians and Jews from exercising their religious right to pray on the Temple Mount? That’s how it is! Only Muslims have unlimited access to the holiest site in Judaism. Only the Quran is allowed inside. The Tanach (Jewish Scripture, known in much of the world as the “Old Testament”) and the Christian Scriptures (the New Testament) are prohibited. However, Israel claims to respect the religious rights of all people.

Israel has no law that prohibits Christians and Jews from praying or reading scripture on the Temple Mount. However, it has an unwritten agreement with the Wakf (Muslim religious authorities) that prohibits it. There is no sign saying: “Warning! Christian and Jewish prayers are prohibited! Muslim religious authorities do not allow Bibles. Proceed with caution!”

I do not accept that Muslims have the authority to forbid me to read the appropriate Psalms or the New Testament account of Jesus celebrating the Water Libation Ceremony (Psalms 120-134, John 7:37). My question was, where should I read those passages? I ended up between the Dome of the Rock and Al Aksa Mosque, just to the right of the place where Muslims wash their hands and feet. It was on the other side of the raised platform there, if you look towards the Mosque of Omar.

First, I nervously sat down and read. Then I put on my black yarmulke, stood up and started reading for a few minutes until I got distracted for fear of being attacked by the Muslim guards. I sat down, took off my yarmulke and continued reading. Then one of the Wakf guards noticed me and asked what I was reading. I replied, “Yes, it’s my book.” He took it from me and saw that it was a Bible. He asked me if I was a Christian or a Jew. When I told him I was a Christian, he asked me why I was wearing a magen David (Star of David).

I didn’t feel compelled to explain that it was a gift from my mother and younger sister, and I said, “Give me back my Bible.” She ordered, “You have to go now!” Again I said, “Give me back my Bible.” When she refused, I demanded her return stronger than her. She raised her fist as if to punch me and warned me not to raise my voice. This attracted the attention of some passing tourists, who gathered around us. I told them, “This thief has stolen my Bible!”

The Wakf guard told me to go away again and threatened to beat me up. He said he would give me my Bible back outside. Since there was no reason for him to confiscate it in the first place, I told him to give it back to me right then and I would go. At that moment he radioed an Israeli policeman, who came running. The Israeli handcuffed my right hand, and I raised it and showed it to the assembled tourists, saying, “This is Israeli democracy!” I repeatedly asked the Israeli, “What law have I broken?” knowing that he hadn’t broken any laws, but that he was being treated like a common criminal.

I am shocked that the Jewish police in the Jewish state help maintain Muslim domination of the Temple Mount by suppressing Christian and Jewish religious rights there. Is it the Temple Mount or the Mosque Mount?

An Israeli policeman took me away. I told the bewildered tourists: “This is what happens to a Christian or a Jew who wants to read the Bible where the holy Temple stood. This is what happens to Christians and Jews who want to pray where our prophets prayed.” and patriarchs, and where Jesus and his disciples taught.

Why exclusive religious rights for Muslims? And Israel wants to hand over control of Rachel’s Tomb, Bethlehem and Joseph’s Tomb to Muslim religious authorities? Are they crazy or what?

At the Western Wall Plaza Police Station, the officers wanted to know who else was with me. They were relieved to discover that he was alone. (They should have known he was performing a mitzvah [religious commandment]). The police said that they arrested me for my own protection. I told them that they should have arrested the Wakf guard who threatened me! Why not eliminate, once and for all, the threat of Muslim violence? Why reward Muslim extremists?

The policemen laughed in disbelief when I told them that I am a Christian and that my Bible includes the New Testament, which they returned to me. A Druze officer said, “But you must respect other religions.” He was silent when I asked, “Where was your respect for mine?” I explained that our biblical goal is to allow everyone to come and pray on the mountain where the Temple of God stood, and in the Temple when it is rebuilt. It is prophesied that it will become a “House of Prayer” for all nations.

The police told me that I could return to the Temple Mount as a tourist, without my Bible. I said I don’t want to go up there just as a “tourist”; I want to pray there. When they asked me how many times I had uploaded, I said “a thousand”. They noted it in their report. They said I could make a short statement for the record. I said something to this effect: “Is it too much to ask during this 3000th anniversary of King David’s Jerusalem to peacefully read his inspired words on the Temple Mount?”

When I left the police precinct, one of the policemen told me that I did a good thing. Once outside, I was greeted by some Jews who saw the incident and congratulated me.

I pray that this unfortunate encounter raises awareness of Israel’s religious discrimination against Christians and Jews. The situation must change. It will when enough people shout “Enough!” (Italian for “enough!”).

May the day soon come when Christians, Jews and Muslims can say: “My House will be called a house of prayer for all Peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7). the Bible says

“Furthermore, as for the foreigner, who is not from your people Israel, but comes from a far country because of your name, because they will hear about your great name, and about your mighty hand, and about your outstretched arm, and they will come and pray towards this house. Hear Your abode in heaven, and do according to all that the foreigner asks of You, so that all the peoples of the earth know Your name, to fear You, as Your people of Israel do, so that they know that over this house that I have built is called by your name. (1 Kings 8:41-43)

“And the foreigners who join the Lord to serve him and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, all who observe the Sabbath, I will bring to my holy mountain, and I will make them happy in my house of prayer Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, because my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:6-7).

“And it will come to pass at the end of days, that the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the head of the mountains, and will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. And many nations will come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths’, because the Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” ( Micah 4:1-2)

(This article was originally published in the Jerusalem-based Root and Branch Association newsletter, January 1996.)

See Israel’s Holy Sites Protection Law of 1967 which they have failed to enforce and refused to uphold.

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