It may sound strange to say, but Tisha B’Av is actually one of my favorite days of the year.
Everyone in the Temple Mount movement is together - their friends and family members too - united in prayer at our most holy home. Those who ascend less frequently, hundreds more who rarely ascend, and countless others - many ascending for the first time - also join us. It has been reported that as many as 2,000 people visited the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av this year.
Generally, Tisha B’Av is a day that the Temple Mount movement - not strangers to negative media attention - receive mostly positive press coverage, as it is the only day of the year that Israel, and all the Jewish people, stand with us in some (albeit small) way. Our country, fellow citizens, and Jewish brethren across the world may not like what we do, or how we do it, but on Tisha B’Av, at the very least, they are reminded how important it is that we are doing it, and that our fight for equal rights and access to the Temple Mount is not only for us - but for us all.
Mass ascension days like Tisha B’Av are unusually tense. The demand to ascend results in long lines of fatigued and frustrated fasting worshippers, anxious to not miss their opportunity to visit the Temple Mount, and increased stress and strain on the resources of the Israel Police, tasked with ensuring our safety while maintaining orderly and (sadly) expedited ascensions.
Add to this the demands of the many non-Jewish tourists and tourist groups passing through, ascensions made (and thankfully so) by an increasing number of elected officials, the larger then usual groups of Muslims freely moving around the Temple Mount (in hopes of disrupting our ascensions), the extraordinary heat, and the need to oversee the large number of additional security forces assigned to protect everyone - Jews, Muslims and tourists alike.
Despite all this, holidays on the Temple Mount are generally successful. Muslims come and go without impediment while worshippers worship, tourists tour, and police are policing. Everyone who wishes to ascend ascends. And few, if any incidents result.
But this year was different.
This year, I witnessed an extraordinary amount of human rights abuses and infringements on the civil liberties of Israeli citizens. This year I witnessed an unusual and unnecessary amount of aggressive policing tactics and unfair treatment towards those of us who regularly ascend, as well as those who do not. And I am certain that this year - given what I saw, what I heard about, and what was reported directly to our organization - there are an equal number of incidents which we we did not see, hear about, or receive reports of… and likely never will.
Worshippers were harassed for the crime of sitting… on the Temple Mount.
At least 15 arrests were made for the crime of praying… on the Temple Mount.
A fight broke out between police officers and worshippers for the crime of singing… on the Temple Mount.
And I myself was assaulted, and almost arrested, for the crime of not moving quickly enough after I stopped to inquire if a pregnant woman, ascending with our group, was okay after being pushed by a police officer near the exit of the Temple Mount.
As a result, my phone and bag was broken. I was bleeding from my mouth and hand. My arm and leg are significantly bruised from being thrown against the wall in attempt to handcuff me for “resisting” the officer who assaulted me… all of which occurred while I was already standing within two feet of the gate we exit the Temple Mount from.
You can read more about what happened (and watch video from the aftermath of the incident) in this editorial by our friend, and fellow ascender, Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, in Israel365 News.
I don’t tell you this in hopes of eliciting your sympathy. Nor do you need to worry about me. I will be fine. Material items can be replaced. And none of my injuries require medical attention.
I am telling you this so that you understand how important our fight is. And how much farther we have to go, despite the great lengths we have already come.
This year was a regression back to the times of our Temple’s destruction.
But on Sunday - one of only five days the Temple Mount is open to Jews, for just five short hours a day - we will ascend. We will progress. And we will continue to fight for everyone’s right to access the Temple Mount, the House of God, and the holiest site in Judaism.
And whether you stand with us, against us, or care not at all about this issue, we will have you in our prayers when we do so.
I am deeply saddened by what occurred - especially in light of the fact that never once, in all my years of ascending, have I been involved in any sort of incident with the authorities on the Temple Mount. Those of you who have ascended with us know full well that I personally, and High On The Har as an orgainzation, go to great lengths to have a cordial relationship with the Israel Police, for which we are often criticized by our peers and partners. Those who ascend regularly with us know that our efforts have resulted in us being considered a trusted partner in deescalating tensions on and off the Temple Mount when and if they do occur. We have always worked with all parties involved to support and ensure safe and meaningful ascensions for Jewish worshippers and all our guests, each and every day.
We believe, as an organization, that engaging the Israel Police in a positive way is a critical part of our advocacy efforts. As the history of human right struggles has proven, it is far more difficult to mistreat an “enemy” when they are humanized in the hearts and minds of those fighting against them. And we have always taken into consideration the very difficult job the Israel Police have managing the many competing interests and religious sensitivities that the Temple Mount is subject to.
And it is important to point out that none of the regular Israel Police officers who ascend with us were involved in my incident, and our opinion of those officers who protect the Temple Mount day-to-day has not changed. Furthermore, we would like to stress that the Temple Mount remains a safe place to visit, and we will continue to host safe, daily tours there, for the purpose of educating our guests, praying with our guests, and ensuring the rights and access of our guests.
We are thankful to the Israel Police officers, with whom we are familiar, who interceded on my behalf to stop the assault before it escalated, as well as all the Olim, other officers, Ministers of Knesset, organizations and lawyers associated with the movement who came to my assistance afterwards in order to address the issue. Nonetheless I have been informed no further actions will be taken, and no one will be held responsible for the property damage or physical injuries.
Incidents such as this do, and will continue to occur. And that is why our work remains so important.
Jews should never be prevented from praying on the Temple Mount. We are commanded by God to do so and we have done so for centuries. And so we will continue to pray.
Jews should never be assaulted for ascending to the Temple Mount. We are commanded by God to do so and have done so for centuries. And so we will continue to ascend.
And we hope that you will continue to support our efforts to ascend and to pray on the Temple Mount. Because it is only with your support that we can continue our work, and make the Third Temple a reality in our time. Please consider joining our movement today at HighOnTheHar.com/donate
We look forward to welcoming you home on your next Aliyah, but until then, please pray for those who ascend regularly to the Temple Mount and for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash... speedily in our days.
Dr. Melissa Jane Kronfeld
Founder, High On The Har