JERUSALEM — “David, do you know what the rules are here?”
“You’ve never been on the Mount before?”
“David: No praying. No ululating. No rending your clothes.”
The cop, a strange mix of friendly, cagy, and worried, stared at me at the checkpoint on the walkway leading up to the Temple Mount, on a bright, mild spring morning.
“You know, David, that this is a sensitive place?”
“O.K., David. If you have any trouble, there are policemen every few meters. You’ll see them.”
Yes, it was my first visit to the Temple Mount, despite having lived in the Jerusalem area a long time. Though the Israeli authorities reopened the Mount to non-Muslims a few months ago, I can’t say why the curiosity took hold of me just now. Maybe it was the thought that, after a few years of it being forbidden, I was now being “allowed” to visit it, as if it were a favor.
IT WAS A VISIT to the Mount by another Jew, then-Member of Knesset Ariel Sharon, on September 28, 2000, that was said at the time to have sparked a wave of rioting and murder then euphemistically called (still sometimes today) the second intifada. Indeed, the situation on the Mount got so volatile that soon after Sharon’s visit the Israeli government declared it off limits to non-Muslims, a ban that it lifted partially and gingerly only last September.
Now, as the broad plaza stretched before me, I was struck by the peacefulness of the place, under the sweet blue of early spring. Tall cypresses cast dollops of shade along the pavement. In the background was the Mount of Olives, dense and mazelike with white gravestones. Knots of policemen and border policemen glanced at me — mostly Sephardic Jews and Druze, swarthy guys with an indelible stamp of the Middle East about them, both affable and hardboiled.
“Do you feel this place to be holy,” an inner cop asked me, “because you really feel that way, or because tradition tells you that you’re supposed to?” I don’t know. “Do you believe in holy places, or isn’t this just an elevation, with a nice air of serenity to it, where ancient people might have thought God dwelled?” I don’t know.
Now, what were some of these landmarks around here?
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In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
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