The Temple Mount Is in Our Hands – Jewish Exponent

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Ami Rozmayrn

Ami Rozmaryn

My dear friend and his family came from Baltimore recently on a two-week tour of Israel in honor of his daughter’s bat mitzvah. On the last day of their trip, I drove to Jerusalem with my two younger sons to join them.

We arrived at the Temple Mount Sifting Project on Mount Scopus. We learned about the illegal construction done by the Waqf on the Temple Mount in the late 1990s, when they dug up 400 truckloads of the most archaeologically significant dirt on the planet — containing the remnants of the two temples that stood on the site — and dumped it unceremoniously in the Kidron Valley.

Over the last 20 years, around 250,000 people have volunteered to come and sift through the dirt to salvage what they can of the priceless items still buried in it and help archaeologists piece together whatever they could learn about the temples and daily life within their walls. We joined them, poring over each bucketful, hoping to pick a coin or ring or carving out of mostly nondescript rocks and pebbles. We ended up with a nail, a few pieces of pottery and bits of glass. Not too much, but we did our part.

We went next to Ammunition Hill, the site of a fierce battle between Israel and the Jordanians in the Six-Day War as part of the larger battle for Jerusalem. Located between what was Israeli controlled West Jerusalem and the Israeli enclave of Mount Scopus, the hill itself had been held by the Jordanians since 1948, cutting off Mount Scopus, and the soldiers guarding it, from the rest of the IDF. The IDF, therefore, had to take the hill before the Jordanians could rout the Israeli garrison on Mount Scopus.

In a video, soldiers told the story of the battle to their grandchildren as they walked through the site decades later. They retold how they fought and captured Ammunition Hill, then advanced to conquer the Old City.

After the video, our tour guide enthusiastically commanded our kids through the trenches while shooting at invisible Jordanian soldiers with a rolled-up folder. Meanwhile, I pondered the video. I thought about the old lady in one soldier’s story, who handed him a flag and told him that the whole country was pushing him forward with their fingertips. And how they raised that flag and wept on the Temple Mount as Motta Gur’s call, “Har HaBayit B’Yadeinu” (The Temple Mount is in our hands), echoed through the Jewish people.

Our soldiers wept not because of the tactical or strategic significance of the Temple Mount, but because we, the Jewish people, were promised it millennia ago, and had now finally regained it. We fought the Six-Day War not only for our lives — though it was for that, too — but for the redemption of our land. We understood that the land is our gift and our bride to be savored and cherished. We longed for it. We pushed our paratroopers forward with our fingertips, and the Temple Mount fell into our hands.

I pondered bitterly how soon after, we pulled down the Israeli flag and handed the Temple Mount back to the Islamic Waqf.

We had hoped to avoid a holy war with the Muslim world. We got a holy war anyway, with the Temple Mount at its very center. Despite our generosity, the defense of Al Aqsa became the perennial Jihadist rallying cry and its raison d’être. The Temple Mount became a ready spark for the many infernos our enemies have since unleashed on us.

We had hoped to show the world that we welcome peace, but instead they saw that we are afraid of war, and that we will trade even our most precious treasure to avoid it. We’ve only whet their appetite for more. We gave more but received less and less in return.

So soon after we ascended the Temple Mount, did we forget our longing for it. We were like a groom trading away his bride on their wedding night. We stopped believing that the land belongs to us and that we belong to it, and instead we started to accept the belief that to even think that is chauvinistic and fascist. We began to think of the land as a pocketful of chips to trade for goodwill and promises of peace.

Five-and-a-half decades later we are at a nadir. The peace we bought has proved illusory, and any goodwill has evaporated. We bartered away our inheritance and we have nothing to show for it.

But as I mourned this sad state, I thought again of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. I thought of our “bride,” the site which we scorned and gave away, which was dug up and dumped in the Kidron Valley. We found it and have lovingly gathered it back up. And a quarter of a million people have volunteered to redeem the Temple Mount through the incredible labor of sorting through 400 dump trucks full of dirt, one pebble at a time.

Through this work, and the work of the archeologists studying the bits and pieces that we are picking out of the rubble, we are rebuilding the Temple — if only in archeological journals for now.

In the meantime, we come to Mount Scopus from all over the world, to sift and comb and sort and pick.

And once again, the Temple Mount is in our hands.

Ami Rozmaryn made aliyah with his family in 2017. He works as an engineer in Israel.

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