Monday, September 30, 2002


Sept 30, 2002


Tonight I’d like to speak to you for a few minutes about a subject, which on the face of it, is very dull and boring. That subject is, simply, words.

Having authored countless articles and news releases over the past seven or eight years, I have an appreciation for words. Anyone who follows the press knows and understands the power of words.  Unfortunately, sometimes even well-meaning people use words in unintentional improper contexts, which cause much more harm than good.

For example, our president, Moshe Katzav, who today visited Kiryat Arba and Hebron. Moshe Katzav has always been a good friend of Hebron. In the past he visited Hebron and helped in any way he could. Today he attended the opening of a new archeology museum in Kiryat Arba and later attended afternoon prayers at Ma’arat HaMachpela.  He is observant of Jewish tradition and is a pleasant good-natured individual.

This morning, in an interview on Israel radio, Katzav was asked about a Jewish presence on Temple Mount.  This is the most sacred place in all of Judaism, site of the First and Second Temple.  According to strict Jewish law, much of the Mount is considered to be so holy that Jews are forbidden from stepping foot there. But their are areas around the perimeter of the site that should be permissible to Jewish worship. Yet, all of Temple Mount has been abandoned to the Arabs and is totally off-limits to Jews.  The “Temple Mount Faithful” organization frequently appeals to the Supreme Court in an effort to receive permission to pray on the Mount. Their requests are regularly denied, due to ‘security reasons.’ A number of years ago Hebron youth were permitted to enter this perimeter region for a few minutes, but were warned in advance: You may not take a prayer book with you, nor may you pray aloud, or even move your lips, for fear of insulting the Arabs.  The Moslems have full control of Temple Mount, and the terrible obliteration of ancient artifacts, dating back to the First Temple period, thousands of years ago, is rampant. The Arab eradication of Jewish artifacts in and around Temple Mount is, of course, intentional, in an attempt to erase all signs of Jewish identity at the site. They allege that Temple Mount is holy only to Moslems and that Jewish claims are totally fictitious.  Presently there is a great fear that, due to faulty Arab construction at the site, the entire area may cave in during the Moslem month of Ramadan, when tens and hundreds of thousands are expected to worship there. It is thought that any Israeli attempt to rectify the situation ‘will cause riots.’

This morning, when President Katzav was asked about a Jewish presence, or even a Jewish visit on Temple Mount, he replied that due to the present situation, and due to Moslem sensitivity, Jews should not be allow to visit Temple Mount. He explained that any change in the status quo must be accomplished jointly with the Arabs, who will, of course, never accept any Jewish presence there. He neglected to decry the massive sacrilege caused by the Arabs at the site. He also suggested a possible compromise based upon the example of Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron. It seems that President Katzav is unaware that eight percent of Ma’arat HaMachpela is today controlled by the Arabs, that is they control over 3,000 square meters as opposed to Jewish accessibility to barely over 700 meters. (See []).

President Katzav must also have forgotten that the Arabs refused to allow Jews to worship inside the building atop the caves of Machpela for 700 years and that the Deputy Arab Mayor of Hebron, Kamal Dweck said in an interview in 1999 that should the Arabs ever again control all of Hebron, Ma’arat HaMachpela, the second holiest site to Jews, will be off-limits to Jews, (and Christians too, for that matter.) The present situation at Ma’arat HaMachpela is not a result of compromise, rather, it was forced upon both Jews and Moslems by the Israeli Defense Department and leaves the most important room in the structure open to Jews only 10 days a year. I think it preferable that this not be considered a viable option for a solution to a Jewish presence on Temple Mount. President Katzav must not have thought of this while being interviewed this morning.

Please do not misunderstand me. I really do appreciate and admire Moshe Katzav, and I’m forever grateful that he was elected to the office of President and not his opponent, who you may remember was Shimon Peres. But having reached the prestigious position of President of the State of Israel, Katzav really should be careful what he says. The office of President of Israel is largely a ceremonial, with little real power. However, as President, Katzav does have influence, and also the ears of media, who like nothing better than to use Katzav’s words to badger those ‘religious fanatics’ who are upset by Israel’s policies concerning Temple Mount. It might be remembered that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was erroneously ‘credited’ with causing the present Olso War because of his visit to the Mount during the days Ehud Barak. Why did Sharon visit Temple Mount? Because at the time Barak was considering officially abandoning it to Arafat as part of a ‘final peace plan.’ If it was important to Sharon then, shouldn’t it still be important to him today?

I really don’t think that Moshe Katzav meant what he said. I think he knows and understands the true significance of Temple Mount to the Jewish people and the damage, both physical and spiritual, being caused by Israeli relinquishment of the site to the Arabs. He just said the wrong words. And saying the wrong words, especially with the microphones on, is very dangerous indeed.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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