Year-In-Israel students visited the Temple Mount as part of their Israel Seminar course on Wednesday, February 3, 2016. Year-In-Israel rabbinical student Thalia Halpert Rodis shares a reflection:
Our class visited the Al Aqsa complex to deepen our understanding of "The Conflict". It is a holy site for both Muslims and Jews, and is in control of the Palestinian Authority. The site itself is the physical personification of the political & religious struggle for sovereignty within Israel/Palestine.
We witnessed the serene beauty of the plaza, the exquisite & detailed tiles lining the Dome of the Rock, and heard shouts of "Allah hu Akbar!" any time people walked through the plaza wearing yarmulkes. Just the site of a visibly Jewish person was perceived as a threat to the site itself. This seemed strange as the people being shouted at were simply walking through, but I understood why once we left. A group of orthodox men stood outside the exit of the Al Aqsa complex singing at the top of their lungs, "God will rebuild the Temple! The messiah will come!" A clear threat to the existence of this important Muslim site. I was embarrassed.
This experience brought into sharp focus the question of holiness. Can it be found in a place? Is it embodied through action?
Later on, after hearing from a Palestinian woman about her difficult experiences living in Israel, our group left the Old City through the Jaffa Gate at the same time that 1 police woman was murdered and at least one other person at the Damascus Gate was critically injured by Palestinians who were then killed on the spot.
Jerusalem is a tightrope walk over a sea of complexity, beauty, religion, and politics... and yes, holiness is here too. But holiness is only realized when acts of justice & compassion are the prayers that we create through our treatment of others. We share this world, and it should be our mission to truly live in it together with peace and with dignity.