Praying Jews flock to the Temple Mount; world notices

If there is a “Ground Zero” for the world’s three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — it would be the Temple Mount, or “Haram Al-Sharif” (“Noble Sanctuary”) in the center of Jerusalem.

Jews revere it as the site of the First and Second Temples, wherein the “Holy of Holies” was contained. Christians revere the Temple as the place where Jesus walked and reasoned with the rabbis — as well as chastised the Pharisees and money changers. Muslims view the site as the the third holiest location in Islam, the location of the Prophet Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven.

Within the space of two days, two prestigious newspapers have covered the relatively recent phenomenon of more and more Jews, mostly Israelis, visiting the Temple Mount and praying, usually surreptitiously. Though captured by the Israeli Defense Forces in the 1967 “Six-Day War,” the Temple Mount was almost immediately returned to Muslim control, and Jews were advised not to visit.

No longer, says The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor, both of whose Jerusalem correspondents have investigated. Both stories document the relatively quiet return of worshipping Jews to the site, the occasional protests of Muslims there, and the now-increasing warnings from local Islamic leaders that unless the Israeli government does something, matters could get out of hand.

From Jodi Rudoren at the Times:

For decades the Israelis drawn to the site were mainly a fringe of hard-core zealots, but now more mainstream Jews are lining up to enter, as a widening group of Israeli politicians and rabbis challenge the longstanding rules constraining Jewish access and conduct. Brides go on their wedding days, synagogue and religious-school groups make regular outings, and many surreptitiously skirt the ban on non-Muslim prayer, like a Russian immigrant who daily recites the morning liturgy in his mind, as he did decades ago in the Soviet Union.

Palestinian leaders say the new activity has created the worst tension in memory around the landmark Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, and have called on Muslims to defend the site from “incursions.” A spate of stone-throwing clashes erupted this month: on Wednesday, three Muslims were arrested and an Israeli police officer wounded in the face. And on Friday thousands of Arab citizens of Israel rallied in the north, warning that Al Aksa is in danger.

“We reject these religious visits,” Sheik Ekrima Sa’eed Sabri, who oversees Muslim affairs in Jerusalem, said in an interview. “Our duty is to warn,” he added. “If they want to make peace in this region, they should stay away from Al Aksa.”

Writing for the Monitor, Crista Case Bryant reports:

[Read more...]

Ultra Orthodox or fervently religious Jews?

The Jewish Daily Forward has a fascinating discussion of terms used to describe Haredi. It begins by noting that newspaper legend Seth Lipsky recently referred to “the leader of the largest grassroots organization of fervently religious Jews, Rabbi David Zwiebel of the Agudath Israel of America.”

The Forward notes that the term “fervently Orthodox Jews” has been promoted in recent years as an alternative to “ultra-Orthodox” and “Haredi.”

It’s certainly possible to understand the motives behind this. In an op-ed published in the Forward several years ago under the title “Stop Calling Me an Ultra-Orthodox Jew,” a Haredi named Abbott Katz complained that “ultra,” with its “Latinate tinge,” is “redolent of cultic cadres pushing their faith to mysterious extremes.”

What makes “ultra” so pernicious, Katz wrote, is “its very status as a prefix, a descriptive tack-on to a more primeval, integral Judaism of truer provenance. Orthodox Jews seem to be seen as marking the spiritual baseline, while the ‘ultras’ are typed as a kind of fanatic insurgency.” And he ended with an appeal: “Can’t the stylebook writers think of something else?”

They have, the Forward says — substituting “fervently Orthodox” as far back as the 1990s. But not everyone is happy about it. The writer of the piece argues that describing some as fervent and others as “mere” Orthodox implies that one is more enthusiastically dedicated to something than the other.

I would no more want to have to refer to ultra-Orthodox Jews as “fervent” than I would want to have to refer to them as “strident” or “compulsive”; such judgments should not enter the everyday term for them. And if I were a “merely” Orthodox Jew, I surely might resent the implication that I’m not as fervent about my religion as an ultra-Orthodox Jew is.

What distinguishes ultra-Orthodoxy from “mere” Orthodoxy, after all, is not necessarily its fervor, which varies from one individual to another, but its style of life, its scale of values and the rigor with which it practices certain ritual commandments.

We live in an age in which it is frowned upon to call groups by names they don’t like, and this is not in itself a bad habit. This doesn’t mean, though, that we have to call them by names that flatter them just because they do like them. If “ultra-Orthodox” is going to be a no-no, let’s not make “fervently Orthodox” a yes-yes. That leaves us stuck with the Hebrew “Haredi.” It’s a word that Jews can’t even agree how to pronounce, but at least no one gets upset by it.

Well that was a nice, tidy solution (and one that, at this point in my thinking, at least, works).

But this issue goes far beyond Orthodox Jews and into every single religious division out there.

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X