Last week, the senior staff at Channel 2 news interviewed arch-terrorist Gibril Rajoub. Long ago, the magic Oslo laundromat turned the veteran murderer into a much sought-after interviewee, his face frequently beamed onto a giant screen in the broadcasting studio.
The interviewers were asking the honorable interviewee the expected questions on the stalled negotiations, when the most senior interviewer, Ehud Ya’ari surprised the viewers and Rajoub himself with his next question: “Yasser Arafat claimed that there never was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. What do you say? Was there, or was there not a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem?”
“It is a holy place for everyone,” Rajoub attempted to squirm out of the question. “Why can’t I pray there?”
“Not true,” another interviewer chimed in. “Arabs can pray there. It is actually the Jews who are prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount.”
This interview was not taking place in the nationalist Arutz 7 studios; it was on the most popular news show on the mainstream Channel 2. Why do they suddenly care if Rajoub does or does not believe that there was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount and if Jews are permitted or prohibited from praying there?
PM Netanyahu insists on “Palestinian” recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. “How can anyone claim that there was no Holy Temple?” he recently called out in the Knesset.
What is this Holy Temple thing anyway? Everyone says that only extremists care about it and suddenly we have the Channel 2 senior staff and Netanyahu standing up for the Temple? Are we witnessing a sea change, gone previously unnoticed?
The answer is a resounding yes. We are witnessing a change of consciousness that is going to change the world.
When the little neighbor comes over to play and Mother lets him play with a toy that had been gathering dust in a corner, her own son begins to cry. “But you never played with this toy,” Mother says in frustration. Son continues to scream. And he is right. As long as nobody competed with him for the toy, he could busy himself with other playthings. But as soon as a different child begins to play with the abandoned toy, his ownership and presumed easy access to his ‘property’ are threatened.
The same is true with the Israelis. As long as they felt that their national identity was ensured, that nobody was challenging it, that nobody was claiming that they are nothing more than a religion, that nobody serious was claiming that they have no history and that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem never existed – they allowed their prize toy to gather dust in an abandoned corner. They quite enjoyed the shiny new toy that they had built in its stead: an alternative/borrowed Israeli identity that concealed their Jewish identity, instead of being built atop it. Actually, they only allowed the religious to play with their abandoned toy, proving that Judaism is merely a religion, not a nationality.
But the ‘peace process’ has led Israeli society to a dead end. For in truth, if there is a ‘Palestinian” nation, that precludes the existence of a Jewish nation – and vice versa. And if this ‘Palestinian’ nation is sovereign in the Land of Israel, particularly on the Temple Mount – then the Jewish nation is not sovereign in any place in Israel. They are mutually exclusive. Than Land of Israel is one entity, which belongs to one nation. If you have recognized the existence of a different nation to whom the Land belongs, you have no choice but to admit that the history of this Land also belongs to them. In that case, you have no history here and in no other place, either. There never was a Holy Temple in Jerusalem, there never was a Jewish Nation and you are nothing more than a mere religion.
This understanding is seeping into Israeli consciousness. Alongside it, we are experiencing a sobering from our automatic worship of the US. Pollard made the Israelis understand that they do not have a sugar-daddy over the ocean, while here, we cannot expect some wondrous peace to break out with our neighbors. In other words, whether we like it or not, we will not find our place among the nations. We are not in Israel as a nation like the other nations. We always have been and always will be a separate and unique nation.
When there is no aspiration to build the Third Temple, the First and Second Temples melt away – and with them, our national history, which revolved around the Temples. Our entire national essence is erased when we flee our connection to the Temple. The Jewish return to history will only be possible when our Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem. Amazingly, Israeli-ness is progressing toward the point from which it so desperately sought to flee.
Israeli society is returning – from pain and despair – to its separate national identity. When it makes peace with its identity, Israeli society will progress to its universal significance, to the perfection of the world, born of uniqueness: “For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”