A Stormy Tour by the Temple Mount

A Stormy Tour by the Temple Mount
Yesterday, towards the end of the fast, I went on a walking tour through the Muslim and Christian Quarters in order to see some of the gates leading to the Temple Mount.
It was a powerful experience. To see the actual Temple Mount through those ancient gates. And to be that close to the Holy of Holies, the epicenter of sanctity that every Jew in every shul around the world turns to face when addressing Hashem.
Our incredible guide from Sovu Tsion, Hodaya Dvir, played us a moving song at each gate about yearning for the Temple and a rebuilt Jerusalem to get us into the mood.
But this special Yud Zion b’Tammuz tour wasn’t only an exciting and inspiring experience for me. It also ended up leaving me feeling quite mixed up, even stormy, inside.
It was challenging for me, first of all, to feel the hostility from the local Arabs, who clearly felt that we were encroaching on their turf. Sometimes this hostility was expressed in subtle ways. Through yelling threatening chants at some yeshiva students gathered near us by Lions Gate to pray at the end of the fast. Or the older woman who cursed us angrily as we sat by the Dark Gate and she passed by us on her way to the Temple Mount. Or the father with a young son who impatiently berated us with “Y’alla, y’alla!” when we took too long to pass by as he waited.
The hostility felt less subtle when, towards the end of the tour, an Arab woman drove her car right up behind us as we walked along a narrow alleyway, blaring her horn non-stop at us in fury.
But what left me feeling most stormy inside wasn’t only these jarring encounters.
What left me feeling more stormy was coming face to face with my own ambivalence: towards the things that we are supposed to be yearning for during these 3 Weeks. Our Temple rebuilt. On the Temple Mount. Which my fellow group-members and group leader seem to yearn for with uncomplicated passion.
I could relate keenly to the song “Zion” by Botser that our guide played for us at the Cotton Gate:
“Zion, I’ve come to the rim of your walls
But I have not redeemed your Heart
I’ve gotten used to crying.
I’ve gotten used to waiting.
I’ve gotten used to going only up to the Wall
Do you still believe me when I sing to You
‘Lo Eshkachech, I will not forget Thee oh Jerusalem.'”
During the tour, I found it challenging to pray by the gates to the Temple Mount, just steps from the Holy of Holies. And felt relieved, praying at length and at ease, only when I found myself back at the Kotel. A Wall separating me from the Holy of Holies, the Temple Mount blocked completely from sight.
I bought a book from our guide, Hodaya, with moving descriptions of the Temple and Temple Mount to arouse my yearning for all these things I’m supposed to be yearning for. Maybe this is why the 3 weeks come around every year. So we have another chance to take another chip out of the wall dividing us from where we are and this unknown, unfamiliar place we’re meant to get to.

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