Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Only in Israel: a public sheḥiṭah demonstration

Jewish date:  30 ’Av 5771 (Parashath Shofeṭim).

Today’s holidays:  Ro’sh Ḥodhesh ’Elul (Judaism), Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Chaand Raat (Islam), Feast Day of St. Thor (Church of the SubGenius).


Yesterday, thanks to a friend, I attended a demonstration of sheḥiṭah (AKA kasher ritual slaughter) in Petaḥ Tiqwah (the next town east of here).  Two chickens and a sheep were killed, and a few tens of people got to see what the inside of a sheep looks like.  This was very educational for anyone who wants to know about sheḥiṭah and related ritual phenomena, such as what fat counts as ḥelev (which is forbidden for consumption) and shumman (which is permitted), what portions should be given to a kohen (priest), and gidh hannasheh (the sciatic nerve, which is forbidden for consumption).  I did not take pictures, and if I did, I probably would not post them anyway.  The demonstration was worthwhile attending, but it was only for people with strong stomachs.

What I found very interesting was not so much the demonstration itself, but the circumstances:
  • Attending were not just men, but also women and children, neither of which normally perform sheḥiṭah.
  • No one fainted or vomited.  My friend told me that some children cried, though I did not notice them at all.  In fact, many children stood close to better see the sheep cut up.
  • The demonstration was performed in the front yard of a synagogue, in easy view of the street.
  • There were no protesters, despite the demonstration being publicly advertised in advance.
Now, try to imagine what would have happened had anyone tried holding such a demonstration in the United States.  In the United States, animal slaughter in public is practically taboo and almost never heard of.  I have heard of Santeríans being harassed, in violation of the US Constitution, for performing animal sacrifice.  Had this demonstration been done in the United States, I would have expected People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to complain bitterly.  Here in Israel, it was an inoffensive curiosity. I am not clear why this cultural difference exists.  I have to remember to start asking about attitudes to animal slaughter in Israel and how common public animal slaughter is over here.

While I am posting, a few other items of interest:


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dishonest reporting

Jewish date:  26 ’Av 5771 (evening) (Parashath Re’eh).

Today’s holidays:  Feast Day of Louis of France and Joseph Calasanz (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Heliogabulus (Church of the SubGenius), Feast Day of Friederich Nietzsche (Thelema).


Recently I came across a short article which struck me as off, and Barry independently asked me to comment on it.  The article is “Rabbis Help Gays Find Sexless Marriages To Procreate For God”.

It starts with this:
Ever wish that you could have a sexless marriage, lots of affairs, and still have the approval of God?  Well, now you can, if you are a homosexual Jew — as long as you promise to procreate in the name of the Lord as well.
It was immediately obvious that something was wrong.  Judaism does not condone affairs by anyone, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, and making children does not excuse such misbehavior.  The rest of the article was also suspicious:
Via Think Progress:
A new Orthodox Jewish service “seeks to help religious homosexuals and lesbians find a partner for procreation purposes – as long as they promise to try to change their sexual orientation,” YNet News reports. An orthodox interpretation of Jewish law forbids homosexual relations, but the match-making website hopes to connect men and women “seeking to start a family in Israel, even without sexual attraction, in order to bring religious children into the world and provide them with traditional education. Thus, a religious gay man will be able to meet a religious lesbian woman through the website and have children with her.”
It’s assumed, of course, that any gay person involved in this sort of arrangement will be having affairs, and according to the service that’s just fine — it’s not cheating if you’re both doing it and your partner knows and approves.  After all, it’s all worth it if it makes more children of the faith.  And the Rabbis themselves believe they are acting under the best of intentions. “Almost everyone understands that there are those who simply cannot change,” [Orthodox Rabbi Arale] Harel admits. “This initiative was designed for them.” 
Still, it’s funny to think, so many religious people are worried that same sex marriage is destroying the “traditional” definition of marriage.
Now, I had already heard about Rav Har’el matchmaking homosexuals (of the opposite sex).  (See “Orthodox Gay Marriage” and “Israeli rabbis launch initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women”.)  However, I had not heard anything about him approving affairs, and when one also takes into account the flippant tone of this article, my suspicions were raised that whoever wrote it did not bother to do any research.

So let us follow the links.  This article refers back to another article in ThinkProgress, “RABBIS MATCH GAYS AND LESBIANS ‘TO BRING RELIGIOUS CHILDREN INTO THE WORLD’”, which was quoted almost in its entirety.  The only part which was not quoted is:
“We are aware of the fact that the man and woman may have extramarital relations according to their sexual inclination, but at least they won’t be cheating on their partners, as it will be done with their consent,” one Orthodox rabbi explained
So far we are still in the midst of suspicious content.  The second article links to a third article on Ynetnews, “Rabbis to match homosexuals, lesbians”:
A new Web initiative seeks to help religious homosexuals and lesbians find a partner for procreation purposes – as long as they promise to try to change their sexual orientation.

Currently, religious gay people are not entitled to use the sector's regular matchmaking service. In the coming days, the Kamoha website for Orthodox homosexuals will introduce a new page resembling leading dating websites. But unlike similar initiatives which have failed in the past, this one enjoys the support of senior Religious Zionism rabbis.

As Jewish Halacha forbids homosexual relations, the initiative will connect between men and women seeking to start a family in Israel, even without sexual attraction, in order to bring religious children into the world and provide them with traditional education. Thus, a religious gay man will be able to meet a religious lesbian woman through the website and have children with her.

The initiative is being led by Orthodox Rabbi Arale Harel, former head of the Shilo hesder yeshiva. According to Harel, the program has the support of additional Religious Zionism rabbis, including Haim Drukman, Yaakov Ariel and Elyakim Levanon.

Harel says he has so far matched more than 10 gay-lesbian couples, and is now seeking to institutionalize the issue.

"There is no rabbi who will approve such a marriage," he explains. "We are aware of the fact that the man and woman may have extramarital relations according to their sexual inclination, but at least they won't be cheating on their partners, as it will be done with their consent."

Nonetheless, Harel has added a condition for the match, which may deter religious homosexuals and lesbians. According to the rabbi, the couple will first have to undergo "psychological conversion therapy aimed at helping the patients change their sexual inclination."

Those seeking to use the website's services will undergo a screening process, and after paying NIS 150 (about $42) in order to prove that they are serious about the issue, they will be able to go out with members of the opposite sex while receiving psychological and rabbinical advice.

"Almost everyone understands that there are those who simply cannot change," Harel admits. "This initiative was designed for them."
This article adds new, unusual details.  First of all, there is the listed requirement of conversion therapy.  Conversion therapy, which aims to change homosexuals into heterosexuals, is not scientifically recognized as actually working and may be harmful.  This requirement is paradoxical, considering that Rav Harel claims that some people cannot change their sexual orientation.  Secondly, there is the obvious contradiction between this matchmaking having rabbinical approval and the claim that no rabbi would approve of such a match.  Also unusual is what is omitted:  a link to this “new Web initiative”.

Given the difficult nature of these three articles, I decided to find Rav Har’el and company and see what they have to say for themselves.  And I did find them.  Their site is Kamokha and their new initiative is ’Anaḥnu.  From the three questionable articles, one might think that rabbis, especially Rav Har’el, were going out their way to get homosexuals to marry people of the opposite sex.  They are not.  Kamokha is an organization of Orthodox Jewish homosexual men who wish to live by Orthodox Judaism.  This includes the prohibition on the practice of homosexuality.  If this seems strange to anyone, do note that just because one has a desire to do something does not mean one will actually do it or even wants to have this desire.  ’Anaḥnu is also their initiative; please note that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, often want to get married and have children.  Kamokha approached Rav Har’el to establish this program.  This is something they want, not something anyone is trying to foist upon anyone else.  They also make it clear that this program is experimental, that it is only for those who have come to terms with not being able to change their sexual orientation, and that this is not a program meant to change sexual orientation.  There is no requirement of conversion therapy whatsoever.  Neither is there any permission for affairs.  To put it bluntly, the people behind the questionable articles lied.  At the most generous, one might think they confounded ’Anaḥnu with another Kamokha initiative, one to provide conversion therapy for free for those who want it—with full recognition that it is controversial—but that would be difficult to do accidentally without being amazingly stupid.

As for the whole business of affairs being allegedly OK for married homosexuals, that may be a perversion of something that Rav Har’el said in an interview pulled out of context:
"Most of the couples agree not to have relationships with members of their own sex, but if there are 'lapses' once every few years, they don't see this as a betrayal," he said. "Generally, it's between them and their Creator."
This is not permission to have an affair by any means, only a statement on the psychology and theology.

Sadly, this display of dishonesty is precedented.  (E.g., see my reviews of His Dark Materials, The God Delusion, Religulous, Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed, and Godless:  The Church of Liberalism.)  If one wishes to argue that homosexuals should never marry anyone of the opposite sex, fine.  If one wishes to argue that homosexuals should not resist their sexual desires but instead rejoice in them, fine.  If one wishes to argue that homosexuals should never have children, fine.  If one wishes to argue that no one should ever aid and abet a homosexual in marrying someone of the opposite sex and producing children, even if that is what the homosexual wants, fine.  Argue any position you want, but do it on the basis of the actual facts.  If someone has to lie or quote out of context to “prove” that someone is doing something wrong, then that person has given the perfect reason to believe that nothing wrong is being done.  And this goes double when the result is mockery and not even a pathetic excuse for an argument.  Practically anyone can do better than this.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ezekiel 4:9 is not about health food

Jewish date:  23 ’Av 5771 (Parashath Re’eh).

Today’s holidays:  Feast Day of Rose of Lima (Roman Catholicism), Nuclear Accident Day (Church of the SubGenius).


A while ago, Barry sent me some pictures of some unusual bread and asked me to post on it.  Unfortunately, Blogger is not being cooperative about loading pictures, so instead I am going to direct you towards the Web-site for the bread:  Ezekiel 4:9® | Food For Life.  Thus is it written in Ezekiel 4:9 (my translation):
And you, take for yourself wheat and barley and beans and lentils and millet and spelt, and you will put them in one vessel, and you will make them for yourself into bread; [for] the number of days that you are lying on your side, 390 days, you will eat it.
The people making bread based on this seem to be taking it as a recipe for health food, claiming “This Biblical Bread is Truly the Staff of Life”.

Now, as an epidemiologist and thus someone who has been exposed to a good deal of health-related information, I am all for variety in one’s diet.  However, healthy eating is not what this verse is about.  Let us consider the context of this verse.  Yeḥezqe’l (Ezekiel) was living at the end of the First Temple Period.  When he prophesied, he was on the shore of the Kevar in Babylonia, as he had already been exiled.  Yeḥezqe’l’s prophecies deal with the transgressions (severe enough to cause major social problems) that ultimately led to the destruction of the First Temple, the 70 years of exile, and the eventual  return of the Jewish people and rebuilding of the Temple.  In publicizing these prophecies, YHWH instructed Yeḥezqe’el to act in some truly bizarre ways, thus getting people’s attention.  Ezekiel 4:9 is part of a set of instructions that Yeḥezqe’l is to lay siege on a brick and spend over a year lying on his side.  The recipe is representative of what people eat in times of siege; not being able to freely import food, they eat whatever they have available, even if it turns out to be unusual mixture.  Please note that Yeḥezqe’l is supposed to ration his food and water during this time (Ezekiel 4:10-11), and what he is supposed to use as fuel for cooking his food is something that no one with any sense (of hygiene, at least) would use unless they had no other choice (Ezekiel 4:12, 4:16).  (I presume the Food and Drug Administration does not permit that level of authenticity.)  Taking the recipe as being meant as health food is nothing less than a gross violation of context.

Even more far-fetched is their Genesis 1:29® sprouted grain and seed bread.  Thus is it written in Genesis 1:29 (my translation):
’Elohim said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing see that is on the face of all the Earth and every tree that on it is the fruit of the tree bearing seed; for you it will be for food.”
This verse is talking about plants in general as food, but somehow the Food for Life people have taken it as inspiring bread made with 19 different plant-based items from around the planet.  Note that at no point does this verse talk about any form of cooking or even of mixing different ingredients.  I have no idea what these people are thinking.

Theological rating for these products:  F.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ramāḍan has nothing to offer non-Muslims

Jewish date:  14 ’Av 5771 (Parashath ‘Eqev).

Today’s holidays:  Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Forefeast of the Dormition (Greek Orthodox Christianity), Feast Day of St. Buck Dharma (Church of the SubGenius).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Jewish Rights on the Temple Mount”.  Please sign and tell the government of Israel that Jewish civil rights matter.  Thank you.


An article that recently appeared in the Jerusalem Post, “Ramadan has something to offer all faiths” by Kaled Diab, disturbs me.  This is an article by a secular Muslim on the famous ’Islāmic month-long fast.  The author is clearly dazzled by the holiday, but not in the way someone religious would think of it.  For comparison, when thinking about Christmas in the United States, a serious Christian thinks about the birth of Jesus, while a secularist who enjoys the holiday thinks about Santa Claus, presents, and Christmas trees.  This article is close to the “Santa Claus” level; the rituals, both formal and informal, and the aura get all the attention, while how Ramāḍan relates to ’Allāh is ignored.  While such an article may be useful for understanding how secularists understand Ramāḍan, it is not so useful for understanding how observant Muslims view it.

Fairly disturbing is the ecumenical approach the author takes towards Ramāḍan.  As the title of the article implies, the author does not see Ramāḍan as just for Muslims.  He cites recent interfaith ’ifṭārs (meals eaten to break the fast during Ramāḍan) and the case of (extremely rare) Ṣūfī Jews, one historical (Rav ’Avraham ben Mosheh ben Maymon) and at least one actually living whom he can actually name as having at one point fasted during Ramāḍan.  While the author may see great potential for Ramāḍan as a bridge between different religions, what is glossed over is why these huge gaps between religions exist in the first place and why Jews and Christians for the most part do not observe Ramāḍan at all.  

Anyone who has read the New Testament and Qur’ān knows (or should know) that Christianity has deep elements of rejection of Judaism, and ’Islām has deep elements of rejection of Judaism and Christianity.  Historically these have been acted on, and in the case of ’Islām, they are very much acted upon.  Only recently has Christianity taken serious steps to bridge the divide and come to peace with Judaism.  ’Islām, on the other hand, to a large degree is still at war with the rest of the planet, including Israel.  Individual Muslims, especially secularists, mystics, and heretical groups, may shed anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity, but when the hatred is embraced all too prominently by observant Sunnīs and Shī‘īs, not to mention the leaders of Muslim countries, the gap is too wide to reasonably bridge.  The author of this article unpromisingly displays the anti-Semitic attitude of blaming Israel for the problems of the “Palestinians”, completely ignoring “Palestinian” terrorism and anti-Semitism as the reason for how Israel treats them.  A man like this is not one your humble blogger would bother trying to bridge the gap with.

Also ignored is that Judaism looks coldly on borrowing from other religions.  Any serious religion is believed by its followers to be the truth; if so, why bother borrowing from a false religion?  There are religions which do grant some sort of validity to other religions as ways to the truth or getting closer to whatever god exists or at least becoming better people.  But ’Islām is a heresy to Judaism, not the worst heresy, but a heresy nevertheless and certainly one in direct conflict with Judaism—not a promising source.  Also, one cannot simply graft any practice onto any religion.  Full observance of Ramāḍan is impossible in Judaism.  There is a long list of days in the Jewish calendar in which fasting during the day, the most famous practice of Ramāḍan, is expressly forbidden, and one of these, Shabbath, happens every week.  It is forbidden to fast on Shabbath with very few exceptions (Yom Kippur, emergency conditions, lack of choice, and being scared so badly by a dream which one suspects is a premonition that one seriously feels better off fasting).  That Jews should adopt Ramāḍan simply is unthinkable.

Furthermore, your humble blogger has no idea what Ramāḍan has which is worthwhile that Judaism does not already have.  Fast days we already have, and those who feel the need can always fast a few more.  Some fast on every Monday and Thursday or the day before Ro’sh Ḥodhesh.  “Soul-searching” and “reflection” are handled by the month of ’Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance.  “Bridge-building” and “solidarity, camaraderie, unison and communalism” are handled by Purim.  Communal eating is common in practically every synagogue on Shabbath.  Unless one wants to claim something especially worthwhile about Ramāḍan television shows, there does not seem to be anything useful in Ramāḍan that Judaism needs.

And do Jews really need or want another holiday?  The Jewish calendar is already saturated with holidays, especially after the recent additions since the formation of the State of Israel.  Every month has holidays.  Some of the old holidays, such as Ṭu biShvaṭ and Ṭu be’Av, have gained new meanings.  The State of Israel added a number, many of which seem to be observed based on one’s politics, and a few others, e.g., Jabotinsky Day and Herzl Day, which seem to be ignored.  Unofficial holidays seem to have little attention or popularity over here.  Family Day seems observed only in schools.  Silvester is limited to Russian immigrants.  American immigrants brought Thanksgiving with them, but it does not seem to have caught on.  There is an unofficial holiday, besides the official one, in honor of Yiṣḥaq Rabbin (I have no idea why), and that one’s observance is very politically limited.  Jews (and other non-Muslims) in Israel have had plenty of exposure to Ramāḍan, and I have seen no interest over here in adopting it in any way, even from secularists.

In conclusion:  Jews observing Ramāḍan?  You’ve got to be kidding.



PS:  Expect me this fall to be promoting Yarov‘am ben Nevaṭ Day (15 Marḥeshwan) as a parody holiday alternative to Yiṣḥaq Rabbin Memorial Day (12 Marḥeshwan).  I find it baffling that Yiṣḥaq Rabbin is celebrated at all, considering he committed treason by aiding and abetting the terrorist Yāsir ‘Arafāt (may his name be erased).  If Rabbin deserves a holiday, then why not honor Yarov‘am ben Nevaṭ, an even bigger traitor and promoter of idolatry?  Why honor someone who tried to make peace is an obviously idiotic way when we can honor someone who betrayed the god who made him ruler of an entire kingdom?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Musings on freedom

Jewish date:  9 ’Av 5771 (Parashath Wa’Ethḥannan).

Today’s holidays:  The Fast of ’Av (Judaism)

It is 9 ’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, and I feel the need to discuss two conversations I had recently with people who shall remain anonymous.  I am also not picking specifically on them, for I have heard similar arguments elsewhere.

One of the conversations was with someone who reacted in alarm to me protesting for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount.  In this conversation, it was questioned whether the majority of Israelis really felt as I did and whether I should be promoting an idea that might be strongly against what they think.  There was also a fear of what other countries might do if I was actually successful.

The other conversation was with someone who was shocked I went up on the Temple Mount.  The person I was talking with was concerned of how the Arabs would react to me being there, presumably negatively.

Both of these conversations disturb me, because there is something in each of them which is fundamentally against the ideals of freedom of religion and a democratic, civil society.  Freedom includes being able to promote ideas that other people disagree with.  Freedom includes being able to do things that other people disagree with.  And everyone is supposed to have these freedoms, not just a few.  It should not matter if someone believes something that everyone else on the planet thinks is wrong; in a democratic society, that person is legally entitled to advocate and live by his/her belief, just as everyone else is entitled to advocate and live by their own belief.  This is especially true when no one is advocating anything out of bounds for a civil society, such as incitement to murder.

There is also the implicit notion that one should not try to challenge the status quo.  I have no idea where the idea that the status quo is sacred and inviolable comes from.  Considering that our lives and beliefs are radically different from our ancestors thousands of years ago, not to mention we are currently living in an era of rapid change, I would say the status quo has been challenged and changed, over and over again.  Now, one could conceivably argue that some aspect of the way things are now should not be changed, but no one is going to say outright “Violation of freedom of religion is the way things are supposed to be, and we should continue violating freedom of religion”, because that is never going to fly.

The conversation on visiting the Temple Mount is also disturbing, because the other person was putting the blame for anything which goes wrong on the wrong party.  If a Jew goes up on the Temple Mount and prays, that is an exercise in freedom of religion.  If a Muslim reacts to that in a way unacceptable in a civil society, such as by throwing rocks, the fault is entirely the Muslim’s.  Blaming and persecuting the victim only gives the perpetrator of the crime the message that committing the crime was acceptable in the first place and encourages further crimes.  There is a very simple solution to this:  do not let them get away with this.  Ever.  This is what the police and the military are for.  In America, the government managed to enforce integration.  If the government here is not willing to enforce religious tolerance, I am going to start looking for a different party to vote for that will.

Both conversations also contain an element of fear.  Appealing to fear is an emotional argument, not a rational argument.  Neither person actually told me that I was actually wrong with regard to freedoms and legal rights.  But is there anything to really fear?  I would be lying if I claimed certain thoughts had never crossed my mind, but on the whole I feel very safe.  Muslim antagonism has goaded Israel into becoming an extremely well-armed and secure country.  Security personnel are everywhere.  Even on the Temple Mount, I did not feel particularly scared.  Yes, being followed around by a policeman is annoying, but only an idiot attacks when a policeman with a big gun is around.  (And, yes, I am presuming that Muslims in general are not idiots.  Just because people believe in something I think is wrong or are my enemy does not make them stupid.)  There are also police with big guns in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, ensuring that the Arab shopkeepers behave themselves.  (Not to mention attacking Jews would be a horrible business decision for anyone trying to sell to Jewish tourists.)  And do remember my trip to Silwan, in which there were police and guards with guns; I was much more scared of the roads, which were so bad that I found myself praying.

I am also not scared of other countries who are hostile to Israel.  According to Wikipedia, there are 1,410,000,000 Muslims on Earth (low estimate) and 5,818,200 Jewish Israelis.  That means that we Jewish Israelis are outnumbered by Muslims over 242 to 1.  If they really wanted to destroy us, they could invade en masse and overwhelm us.  Yes, there would likely be a huge loss of life, but for one person to fight off 242 is extremely difficult and unlikely to occur outside of a video game.  For one person to fight off much smaller numbers that 242 (say, 12) is itself extremely difficult.  If the Muslims have not hit upon this simple strategy after all this time, they either are too stupid to live or they do not really care enough to wipe out Israel.  I consider the latter vastly more probable.  The Muslims already tried to wipe out Israel a few times, and obviously they failed.  The low-level jihad going on now simply does not cut it fighting a war and is more of an annoyance than anything else; to be sure, it is an annoyance that kills a few people from time to time, but there is no way it is going to destroy the country.  So long as the low-level jihad keeps going, the Muslims have an enemy they can blame for all their troubles and they can claim to be fighting against.  If they were to ever succeed, they would not be able to blame Israel for all the evils of the world anymore, which would be very inconvenient.  And as long as Israel does not wipe out the terrorists, the situation remains more or less stable.  To put it in Orwellian terms, jihad is peace.

The person in the latter conversation tried equating modern violent Muslims with the Jews who fought against the British.  I am not proud of some of the things those who fought against the British did, but that was a war, the goal of which was Jewish survival.  Please keep in mind that the Arab-Israeli War started in 1929, and the British in Mandatory Palestine were doing everything they could to get out of the original intent of Palestine as a homeland for the Jews, including caving in to Arab violence.  There never was any intent to wipe out the British or take over the United Kingdom.  Not to mention the war against the British has long been over.  What Muslims are fighting today against Israel is not a war in the Western sense of the term; it is a jihad, the goal of which is the destruction of Israel and the domination of all non-Muslims by Muslims.  These are not comparable situations.

The person in the latter conversation also tried claiming that the more extreme Jewish groups are just as bad as violent Muslims.  Poppycock.  Judaism, unlike Islam, has no sanctions for terrorism or jihad built in.  There have been Jewish terrorists, but these are rare.  Think about it.  When was the last time you heard about Kahana’ Ḥay killing anyone?  Can you ever remember hearing about them killing anyone?  Contrast these with Islamic terrorists, who are in the news regularly killing innocent people.  I have also heard of Ḥaredhim rioting from time to time, but burning tires and clashing with police is not the same thing as terrorism.  You are never, ever going to hear about Ḥaredhim setting off bombs and murdering people.  Nor are you going to ever hear about them trying to engage in conquest, starting wars, or committing genocide.  I have heard plenty of criticism of Ḥaredhim being paranoid and antagonistic towards outsiders, but that does not qualify as terrorism, and it is not morally equivalent to terrorism.  Claiming that they would be the same is attacking them for something they have not actually done and might well never do; this is not morally justified, since one could make the same claim about anyone else.

In short, I have been given no reason to cease and desist from Temple Mount activism.  I also know the situation is not hopeless.  People can and do act to change the world.  I am living in a country which is unprecedented in the history of Earth.  Already the movement is growing and the issue of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount is gaining government interest.  May it be the will of YHWH that this movement reach its logical conclusion, the rebuilding of the Temple, in our days.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Visit to the Temple Mount #2: The Waqf still sucks

Jewish date:  1 ’Av 5771 (Parashath Devarim).

Today’s holidays:  Ro’sh Ḥodhesh (Judaism), the Three Weeks/the Nine Days (Judaism), Feast Day of Alphonsus Liguori (Roman Catholicism), Ramāḍan (Islam), Lammas/Festival of Love (Ritual of the Elements) (Thelema), Lughnasadh (Neopaganism), Feast Day of Drug Side-effects Day (St. Lobster Boy’s Day) (Church of the SubGenius).


You will remember I went up on the Temple Mount on Israeli Independence Day (6 ’Iyyar 5771/10 May 2011).  I went up to the Temple Mount again today (following a call for Jews to ascend today), and I want to get what happened down on paper (so to speak) while the experience is still fresh in my memory.  I have posted every photograph I took (all 117, including two really bad ones) on Facebook.  I apologize that you have to view all the photographs on Facebook; Blogger is not being cooperative about pictures today.

Unlike my first ascent, in which I pretended to be a tourist, I went openly as an Orthodox Jew.  The point off this was to send the message to politicians and the police that the Temple Mount matters to Orthodox Jews.  On my first ascent, I was waved through quickly and was allowed to act with little interference.  On this trip, the discrimination against Orthodox Jews on the Temple Mount which I heard so much about reared its ugly head.  Muslims reportedly often have an inferiority complex and need to suppress the religious activities of non-Muslims in order to feel superior.  (People who act like this in other contexts are conventionally called “bullies” or worse things.)  In this case, they try to suppress Jewish religious activity on the Temple Mount, so they can feel superior to Jews and dissociate the Temple Mount from Judaism.  I was not at the receiving end of the worst abuses I have heard of (such as being dragged off), but what I suffered was blatant discrimination.  I was not allowed to take any Jewish ritual materials up on the Temple Mount; they had a box where these could be left.  I was told that I could not bring water up on the Temple Mount.  I noted that other people were permitted to take water with them, I was told that they were to drink it before they ascended.  (All who believe this, stand on your heads.)  I had to show my identity document and answer questions on what I intended to do up there (looking around and photographing things).  They did not approve of my plan to ask the Waqf official who was to follow me around questions about Islam.  I was also told not to pray up on the Temple Mount.  (All who believe I actually obeyed this directive, also stand on your heads.)

By the way, do not try to photograph the police.  They do not like it.

On the Temple Mount, I was followed around by a policeman and a Waqf official.  I was not allowed to walk as fast as I would have liked.  I was told not to photograph people and to keep away from a certain mosque. Over the course of about 40 minutes, I circumnavigated the entire Temple Mount clockwise, leading my followers across terrain that was not always the nicest to traverse.  To be frank about it, this was fun, because I could drag two people getting in the way of my free practice of religion all over the place; as long as they wanted to keep up the pretense that I was somehow not to be trusted on my own, they were going to have to go wherever I went.  (Next time I go up, I may deliberately choose an unpleasant route.)

Conversation was made difficult, because the policeman spoke to me in a rapid version of Hebrew.  In the United States there is a cliché of people speaking to non-English speakers loudly and slowly.  Over here, I see the wisdom of this, because this is the way you want a language you have trouble understanding spoken to you.

If you were expecting much different physically up there, think again.  There was not much new up there other than more Islamic prayer rugs scattered about.  I concentrated my photographic efforts on graffiti, which my entourage found odd.  (On the other hand, I never have heard of anyone else deliberately looking for religious graffiti, so maybe it is odd.)  Most of it was in Arabic.  (Those who read about my first visit to the Temple Mount will find no surprise there.)  And there was a huge amount of it.  A little of it was in English, one was in Hebrew, and one was an E-mail address.  I am still disgusted at the amount of graffiti up there.  I also noted up there many plants growing between blocks where they could easily be removed.  The amount of rubble and blocks lying around has not changed.  If the Muslims treat what is purportedly their third holiest site this way, I hate to think of what a dump Mecca is.

In summary, the Waqf, aided and abetted by the police, is a pain in the neck when it comes to Orthodox Jewish visitors, and the Temple Mount is still in a state of disgrace.  I encourage all Jews to visit the Temple Mount and be a reciprocal pain in the neck to the Waqf and the police; this is the only way that politicians can be expected to learn anything.