In January, we were honored to host journalist Julie Connan from the French newspaper La Croix (where she serves as the paper’s “special envoy to Ramallah”… yes, Ramallah) for a tour of the Temple Mount and to speak with her about our work fighting for equal rights and access. Unfortunately, Julie wasn’t as excited as we are about securing the Temple Mount as a house of prayer for all people.
First, Connan attacked our co-founder Dr. Melissa Jane Kronfeld, describing her as “Trumpian”, “unmarried”, and “childless” (what does that have to do with anything?!) while falsely stating she works for the Israeli Army (Freudian slip?). She also called our co-founder Rabbi Yehuda Levi “militant” (really?!) as he ascended the Temple Mount as if on “conquered ground” (we guess our restricted access went unnoticed).
Did we mention she thinks out friend and fellow Temple Mount activist MK Itamar Ben Gvir is a “supremacist” (shocker).
Second, Connan claims that our goal is to “simply deconstruct” the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque in order to “erect the third temple there.” Wherein we firmly believe that the Third Temple will be rebuilt in our time, to claim that our primary goal is to destroy any part of the Temple Mount complex is false. Although we do recognize, when the time comes, Israel will have to commit to preserving the many important non-Jewish historical structures and antiquities currently on the Temple Mount, albeit in a different location, so that they can continue to be visited and researched by all who choose to do so.
Third, Connan laments the restrictions on Muslim entry to the Temple Mount, highlighting the request by Israel Police to see the identification of one such visitor before he entered into one of the eight (yes... EIGHT) gates open to Muslims only, while ignoring the same requests repeatedly made of Jews (many who have ascended multiple times and are well known to the Israel Police) at the one (yes... just ONE) gate we are permitted to enter.
She also falsely claims that Muslims are forced to, “deceive the security forces tempted to restrict access to the site” by announcing prayer services only at the last minute… except for the fact that Muslim prayer services are held at the same time, five times a day, seven days a week, while Jews are only permitted to pray in the morning and afternoon, for five hours (for no more then an hour at a time), five days a week (not including Shabbat)… and as long as its not a Muslim holiday, at which time the Temple Mount is typically closed to Jews.
Lastly, and most egregiously, Connan claims that since Passover and Ramadan overlap THIS year (FYI... it also overlapped last year), the situation will be explosive because Jews will ascend (at the same time and in the same way we do every other day during the year) on our holiday (which is exclusively tied to Temple service and worship) only to aggravate the Muslims (many who are paid to attend during Ramadan) trying to celebrate their holiday (which has no direct relationship to the Temple Mount, i.e. the third holiest site in Islam).
We would like to remind Connan that during most of the Passover holiday, Jews will be banned from ascension in order to allow Muslims complete and total access to freely move about, and pray on, the Temple Mount for Ramadan (at which no time is the Temple Mount closed to Muslim worshippers).
And we would like to point out that it is the Muslims, not the Jews, who use the complex to launch attacks against the Israel Police, incite riots, and partake in destruction of the antiquities, as well as their own Mosque, throughout Ramadan, the remnants of last year’s which remain strewn across the Temple Mount today. We welcome you to see the destruction for yourself on your next tour, or to read Dr. Kronfeld’s article about the 2022 Ramadan Riots in the Times of Israel.
Indulging in ignorant inaccuracies and forwarding fallacious fabrications about the Temple Mount and the Jewish people, French newspaper La Croix proves once again why kosher burgers are best served with freedom fries and why we here in Israel prefer Bulgarian cheese on our toast in the morning…
C’est la vie!
So that you do not need to click on their website to read this La Crap we reprinted the full text for you below.
Of course, this is not the first time High On The Har has been slandered by French flaks trying to fetter our fire. Check out what happened when High On The Har spoke with French newspaper Le Figaro… and our response to the false narrative they presented about us and all those involved in the fight for equal rights and access to the Temple Mount.
The beep of the security gates resounds non-stop as the hasty passage of Jewish clerics in habit and tourists impatient to tread the esplanade of the Mosques, in Jerusalem. Despite the maze to reach the Mughrabi Gate – the only one open to non-Muslims – Yehuda Levi would arrive there with his eyes closed. “Shalom, shalom!" The rabbi, on your own with most of the policemen posted, almost arrives on conquered ground. This Israeli-American has been going almost daily to the esplanade of the Mosques for seven years, with a double hat: director of yeshiva (religious school) and co-founder of High on the Har, an organization which campaigns for the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. A place reserved for Muslim worship under the status quo in force since 1967.
In recent years and even more so in recent months, more and more religious Jews are “climbing” the Temple Mount (Har HaBeit in Hebrew), called Haram Al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) in Arabic. It is on this esplanade, at the crossroads of history and religions, that stands the immense mosque of Al- Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, built where the prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven on his winged mare, Al -Bouraq. A complex considered the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. It is also the holiest site in Judaism, where King Solomon erected his Temple, of which no trace remains. The huge stones of the Western Wall below are the last vestige of the second Temple erected centuries later by Herod and destroyed in the year 70 by the Romans. Millennia of beliefs and wars have made these 14 hectares of history, stones and dust, located in the Palestinian sector occupied and annexed by Israel, one of the most scrutinized places in the world.
Armed with his iPhone, the rabbi documents each of his militant wanderings, aware that the battle of opinions is being played out on social networks. An American tourist challenges him. “Ah, but are you the one who makes the videos on YouTube? I love it, man!" The rabbi is not surprised. “With our organization, my business partner and I mainly target an English-speaking market , whether Jewish or not." Their strategy emphasizes equal rights. “It's a basic human right to connect with God and that's where he's chosen. We are fighting so that everyone has the freedom to pray, like Muslims, from whom we would never want to take away this right. We want the Christians to be able to come and pray, with their crosses and their Bibles, and the Jews with their phylacteries and their shawls,” insists Yehuda Levi. After the usual search to ensure that no one brings psalters, religious symbols or flags, a buffet of biscuits and drinks allows them to wait in a wooden shelter where instructions are posted in Hebrew – do not not having had sexual relations the day before, not wearing leather shoes... The rabbi takes the opportunity to show the location of the old Temple, with a worn plan and a model in support, and recall that, according to the New Testament, Jesus came there at the age of 12 with his parents, it is the episode known as the "recovery in the temple", before chasing, as an adult, the merchants of the Temple.
“Unlike tourists who can go anywhere they want – except in buildings – we, religious or visible Jews, have to wait for the green light from the police escorting us,” he insists . There are several reasons for this protocol: to protect them and to prevent them from praying openly, displaying flags or behaving in a provocative way.
The recent “ascent” of the spearhead of ultranationalists and Temple Mount activists, Itamar Ben Gvir, has stirred up a wave of international disapproval. A few days after his appointment to national security, the minister walked for thirteen minutes on the esplanade of the Mosques on January 3. A victory for his supporters. A "provocation" for the Palestinians and the Muslim world. “All we have is the status quo. These provocations are not a question of faith but of politics”, reacts Najib, social worker and Palestinian from Israel. "Even the Jewish religion forbids it," he adds, referring to the chief rabbinate's hostility to Jewish prayer on the Mount.“
“Why would that be a provocation? Do you really believe that we are starting the third world war by walking there?," protests Melissa Jane Kronfeld, co- founder of High on the Har, while treading the esplanade. "And anyway, who has a third favorite holy place, seriously? No one has three favorite flavors of ice cream!” The activist, who also works in the Israeli army, is by her own admission “far from being neutral… I have worked for Itamar, I campaigned for him,” she admits. “The Ben Gvir family is mine in Israel, I breathe their air.”
In the Ben Gvir clan, the supremacist minister is not the only activist: his wife Ayala is, via another organization, a figurehead of the movement. The two women, apparently very different, are very close: the New Yorker, single and childless, presents herself as the modern and almost Trumpian face of this struggle. “Our presence has become commonplace; no one is offended that a group of Jews are there talking about an old book," she says. "During Covid no one was there to stop us. And we will never go back on the right we have acquired here.”
That morning, a dozen activists prayed aloud in front of the Dome of the Rock, in a small corner out of sight, surrounded by eight guards and under the more or less vigilant gaze of representatives of the Waqf, the administration in charge of the place. What would have earned them arrest a few years ago now only attracts hushed remarks. Everyone tries to push the limits: walking on the lawn, picking up a stone... Transgressions filmed daily by little Muslim ladies and broadcast on social networks to alert Muslim faithful to the "storming of Al-Aqsa by settlers.” The phenomenon is growing: a total of 50,000 people have made the climb in 2022. And more and more Israeli Jews support Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount: according to a study by the Israel Democracy Institute in May 2022, 50% of them say they are in favor of it, compared to 30% in 2016. The idea is also gaining ground among lay people. Despite a polished and calibrated discourse, activists like Rabbi Yehuda Levi bluntly assert that the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque should simply be deconstructed to erect the third temple there, prefiguring the coming to earth of the Messiah.... “ I'm sure we could find a place to rebuild them in an Arab country,” he says, while defending himself from wanting to abolish the status quo.
Worried witnesses of this growing activism, the Palestinians suffer from an increased reinforcement of security, devolved to Israel, even though the esplanade is a social place, for walking. A haven in a territory where Palestinians feel increasingly unwanted. “I'm not really religious but I come often. Each time, I am questioned by the police, “Where are you going?”, “Your papers!” It has become a real routine. They enter their information on tablets, we are always under surveillance," deplores Ahmad, a young Palestinian from the Muslim quarter of the Old City. "The other day they wanted to look at my pendant under my sweater and almost ripped the chain off. I don't know what they expected, it's just a Greek symbol!”, he smiled. To deceive the security forces tempted to restrict access to the site, calls to prayer likely to attract large crowds are now launched at the last minute.
The site is guarded like a powder keg. The arrival of Ariel Sharon, then leader of the opposition, in 2000, considered as a trigger for the second Intifada, left its mark. "With Itamar Ben Gvir in national security and therefore restrictions on the esplanade, we have few illusions", recognizes Aviv Tatarsky, researcher at the Israeli anti-colonization NGO Ir Amim, who made a list of recommendations to the Israeli power in the fall of 2022 in order to preserve the status quo. “We know very well that in this new government, no one is likely to listen to us. They want the exact opposite." “Bibi” has always seen stability as being in Israel's interest, but this is not the case for Itamar Ben Gvir, for whom instability is on the contrary an opportunity to accomplish what he wants. The shift took place even before this government. “Israel no longer sees the Waqf as a partner in stemming tensions. They now want to control everything.”
This year, the calendar promises to be explosive, since Passover, the Jewish holiday when religious Zionists are most likely to make their ascent, falls during Ramadan. Aviv Tatarsky fears the gears. “Muslims will come to the esplanade, not as a political act but because it is part of their life. The Israeli government and Temple Mount activists will make it an affront, a desacralization, and want to push, saying that Passover is also sacred to them; the Palestinians will protest, the security forces will want to restrict them, all of this can quickly degenerate...”
At the end of the Six Day War during which Israel conquered the eastern part of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, General Moshe Dayan ordered the withdrawal of the Israeli flag and soldiers from this holy place. He leaves to the King of Jordan, via the Waqf, the Muslim foundation he controls, the full management of the esplanade, access to which is monitored by the Israeli security forces. These rules, called "status quo", authorize Muslims to go up to the esplanade at any time of the day and night and non-Muslims to enter it at certain times but without praying.