I was standing in line to go up to The Temple Mount. Why not, right? I’d like to see what the fuss is all about. People have waged wars, spilled blood, and fought for decades for this hill.
Do I wear my kippa? Not wear my kippa? I read the news weekly in Palestinian media of religious Jews “storming” The Temple Mount. Did I want to add to that?
But screw that. The Temple Mount has a very clear Jewish connection and I was Jewish before I discovered this conflict. If my clothing offends people that’s on them.
I prepared something to say when I got up there. At the time I was up to Surat Taha in The Quran and I just read Ayah 12: إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ ۖ إِنَّكَ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى (“Indeed! I am your Lord! So take off your shoes, you are in the holy valley, Tuwa.). This reminded me of when Moses was at the burning bush (which some tradition says happened on The Temple Mount) and The Torah says וַיֹּאמֶר, אַל-תִּקְרַב הֲלֹם; שַׁל-נְעָלֶיךָ, מֵעַל רַגְלֶיךָ–כִּי הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה עוֹמֵד עָלָיו, אַדְמַת-קֹדֶשׁ הוּא (And God said: ‘Come no closer; take your shoes off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’). I had those two written on a paper ready to read on The Temple Mount.
The police didn’t end up letting us onto the mount. I messaged a Temple Mount activist I know and he lamented the fact that the police often do that.
There was a kid in the line with me. Sandals, t-shirt, big kippa, bigger payot. He was maybe 15. He looked like he knew the area and this wasn’t his first time going up. I asked him why they’re not letting us up. “the police often don’t let us up. They give in to the Arabs”.
Yells. Screams. Gun shots.
I knew what happened. It was at the height of the latest wave-of-terror/intifada/normal-life. Seeing people walking around with blunt-force-objects wasn’t out of the ordinary in Jerusalem.
I didn’t run toward or away from the commotion. Just stayed still and waited. I got a notification on my phone from Haaretz “stabbing at Jaffa Gate. This is an ongoing story”. Thanks Haaretz.
I then start walking towards Jaffa Gate. It sounded like it was over. I was standing in the gate right near an ambulance that arrived two minutes prior. Two paramedics ran past me holding a stretcher with a naked, bloody, and screaming person. I assumed it was the assailant due to the nakedness. It’s protocol to rip off the clothes to check for explosive devices. The ambulance rushed off. The assailant later died in the hospital.
I walked past the gate and onto the plaza outside the Old City. I walk around as a tourist does. Walking aimlessly while doing 360s to get a full view.
I saw one woman in a Hijab looking at the cordoned off area where the blood-spatters were. She was talking on the phone in Arabic.
That kid from the line going up to The Temple Mount walked up to her angrily and started yelling fake guttural sounds, something I’ve heard before when young children make fun of an Arabs talking. The woman was ignoring him. I walked up to the kid and yelled “do you have a problem with the way she talks?!”. The kid starts yelling back at me.
As the 15 year old and I were yelling at each other, we both stop to watch from across the plaza as a group of Jews amass and start yelling at a group of Arab street cleaners who were sitting on the wall. The Jews were heading towards them aggressively. Their intent was clear.
The Israeli police saw what was happening and got between them and stopped the Jews before they got to the Arabs. A brawl broke out. The kid ran to join the brawl and started hitting the police.
The brawl continued in strength for about 5 minutes, then on a simmer for about 10 more. I watched.
The street cleaners watched.
I went up to an Arab staring at the blood-spatters, introduced myself to him, and started a conversation. His name was Monged. “What happened over here?” I engaged. “A bunch of kids were playing soccer, and the soldiers decided to shoot them”. We talked for about 5 minutes where I said that Palestinian terror does exist. I showed him very clear videos of it. He didn’t trust the sources.
In the middle of our conversation a soldier came up to him and started interrogating him in front of me. “What are you doing here?”. In his accented Arabic saying the few words he knows he said “lift up your shirt and turn around” and “lift up your pant-legs”. The soldier told him to get out of here, and then the soldier walked away.
Monged looks at me with anger in his eyes and says “see? That’s how they all treat us”. I press him a bit “who’s they?” “Jews”. “I’m Jewish”. “Soldiers”. “I’m a soldier”. “You’re one of the good ones. If only they were all like you”.
We part ways with a handshake and a “nice to meet you, brother”.