…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
As an Israeli tour guide, one of the places I visit most often with my tourists is the Western Wall. When we descend the stairs from the Jewish quarter of the Old City and get to the landing where you have your first glimpse of the wall, most people are visibly moved. Some immediately begin to snap pictures or simply stand there in silence gazing at the distant wall. It is often the culmination of a lifelong dream – it is a moment that they will never forget.
After giving my tourists some time to adjust, I ask them a simple question that most of the time they get wrong. “What is the holiest site in the world for Jews?” They usually respond: “The Western Wall” and look at me as if it was a silly or rhetorical question. “No it is not,” I tell them and they look stunned.
The holiest spot in the world for Jews is without question the Temple Mount. It is not the Western Wall. It is the mountain behind the wall where the First and Second Temples stood. That is the place that according to tradition, God began the creation of the world. That is the place where Jews believe Abraham brought his son Isaac to be offered to God. That is the place where the Ark of the Covenant sat with the Ten Commandments inside of it. That is the place where Jews came to worship as a nation on the three pilgrim festivals. And that is the place Where Jews believe a third Temple will be built and we will worship once again. The Western Wall is a holding wall that outlined the Temple Mount. It pales in comparison.
So why do Jews come and pray at the Western Wall? Why can you see them with their heads pressed against the stones, tears streaming down their faces, offering heartfelt prayers to God? Why do they cram notes with prayers into the cracks and crevices of the wall? The answer is a sad one. The Temple Mount is controlled by the Islamic Waqf and they do not allow anyone to pray on the Temple Mount. And by anyone I mean Jews, Christians, anyone not Muslim.
In fact if you do pray on the Temple Mount you will be detained. Just this week, Moshe Feiglin, a politician in Israel who is likely to be a member of Knesset (Parliament) in the upcoming election, ascended the Temple Mount to pray. Now, the police are considering indicting Moshe Feiglin for the crime of praying out loud on the Temple Mount. Unbelievable.
That this is the state of the holiest site in Israel is unacceptable. In fact, it is completely the opposite of God’s intention for the sacred spot. In the Book of Isaiah we read: “…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). In contrast to those currently in control of the Temple Mount, Israel believes that all people have the right pray at our holy sites and anywhere else they may wish. We await the day when the Temple Mount will be open to all.
So remember, don’t just pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray that in Jerusalem we can all pray in peace.