NEW YORK, August 24, 1998, Root & Branch: I was told a Chassidic tale about a battle between HaShem and Satan over whether or not the Jewish People should be allowed to settle in the Promised Land. The story is that Satan removed his objections only on one condition - that the people would not know who they are. This is the situation today. Jews have forgotten who they are - the reflection of HaShem (G-d) in this world. This was made clear on my most recent visit to Israel.
The first example occurred with my Chizuk tour group when we were made to suffer the humiliation of being held hostage for three hours at the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem. This was at the whim of the Palestine [Resident Arab] Authority, and the fear of the Israelis to overrule the Arabs. This outrage occurred over a microphone that Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh needed for his lesson at the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, located at the Tomb of Joseph. The "international incident" ended when the rabbi's lesson ended, and the threatening microphone and speaker were transported away from the Yeshiva. We were then released from our captivity.
This was followed by my experience at the Temple Mount on the afternoon of July 26 at 1:30 P.M. I was alone, with an assorted group of tourists, some from California, waiting at the check point for entrance to the Temple Mount. As is customary at check points, I opened my carry bag to show its contents. As the other tourists filed through without comment, I was told to wait. An Israeli police officer, looking at the prayer book in my bag, told me that I WOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO PRAY ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT. Having been warned of this in advance, I assured him that I would not pray, but simply wished to look around. Another policeman then joined us and rudely demanded to see my passport. I asked him why he had not made the same demand from the others who had entered before and after me.
There was no answer. He repeated his demand. I handed him a copy of my passport. He demanded to see the actual document. I told him that I did not carry it for fear of losing it. He then began calling for instructions. Another policeman asked me if I was a NASHEEM YAROK. My elementary Hebrew came to the rescue and I realized he meant WOMEN IN GREEN (WIG). I answered "yes" and asked him why he thought so. He smiled and said recognized me and knew I had come to start a "balagan" (commotion).
By this time I realized that the prayer book and my Hebron cap had labeled me as a religious fanatic - a trouble maker - and therefore a member of WIG. The rude policeman, Ruben Imran (#964981), then led me across the kotel mall (Western Wall plaza) to the police station.
At the station, Imran's superior, Ronen Persi, began to question me along the same lines. WAS I RELIGIOUS? DID I BELONG TO WIG? WHERE WAS MY ISRAELI ID? I assured him that I was not an Israeli citizen, but an American, and my passport verified that. As I scolded the police for their shameful actions in detaining me, they began explaining that they were acting out of concern for my safety. The Arabs would neither like the message on my Hebron cap - nor the sight of me praying!
As I waited for instructions, tears came to my eyes, knowing that it was Jews, in our beloved sovereign state of Israel, who were taking their orders from Abdul Rauf el-Codbi el-Husseini (Yasser Arafat) and his Arabs as to what would be permitted on the site of the Holy Temple. Who could have imagined such a thing after the delirium of 1967 when Jerusalem was reunited and the HarHaBayit was in Jewish hands once again. Who could have imagined that after the bitter struggle, the great loss of lives, the many wounded, this people - who do not know who they are - would give away our holiest places?
After the hour of detention I was finally permitted to ascend the Mount - having once more promised not to pray there. When I went through the door, what I saw was a beautiful Arab playground and park. Boys were playing soccor, mothers and children were picnicking and playing under the trees. A few tourists were entering and exiting the mosques. Arab men sat in the shade, talking or strolling on the tree-lined paths.
Along the perimeter of the Mount, to which I limited my walk, there was an extensive building program in progress. Slabs of stone were piled up everywhere, and at one point there was a staircase going down, from which I was warned away. When I inquired about the construction, I was told that it was not what I saw - but simply a clean-up program. That was preposterous. The Arabs are working diligently to obliterate all signs of Jewish presence on the holy Mount. Incredulously, they are being aided and abetted by Jews themselves! Certainly, history cannot record anything remotely resmbling the situation in which Israel has placed itself today.
Following my visit, I immediately began telling my story. I called the U.S. Consulate at 18 Agron Street. I learned that Mrs. Kathleen Riley was the Consul, but her telephone, 02-625-3288, never answered. I then tried Suzanne Lawrence at the U.S. Consulate, 27 Nablus Road, 02-622-7200. I was unsuccessful in reaching her, but spoke to the political officer, Sue Saarnio, who had been contacted about or Shechem (Nablus) hostage situation. She was pleasant, but had no solutions to offer. I was unable to reach Ambassador Walker at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, 03--519-7575, but after endless transfers, someone who chose to remain nameless suggested that I put the experience in writing. He assured me that if there were a flood of such letters, it might have an impact in Washington. My final call was to Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, 02-670-5510. I spoke to Ruthie, described my experiences, and asked that she remind the Prime Minister to remain strong and unyielding, so that Arab penetration would end, along with Jewish shame and humiliation.
If we are to see the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, we must remember who we are and restore Jewish presence and prayer on the Temple Mount. Keeping halachic (Jewish law) restrictions in mind, Jews should stream by thousands onto the Mount.
Then, "It shall come to pass in the End of Days, that the mountain of the House of G-d shall be established at the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all the nations shall flow into it..."
Helen Freedman is U.S. National Chairwoman of the Root & Branch Association's Embassy 3000 Initiative. She is a former Executive Director of Americans for A Safe Israel.