Hamas’ Battle for Jerusalem

BY RABBI DORON PEREZ

The crux of the matter 

Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, led by the maniacal Iranian Ayatollahs, are engaged in a fanatical ‘holy’ war of Islamic extremism. Their barbaric war for Jerusalem is a religious war. Nothing highlights this more than the following story. 

Batsheva Sadan, mother of an infantry soldier returning from fighting in Gaza, wrote the following in a remarkable Facebook post. In a conversation with her son who was returning after many months on the front lines, he mentioned that before coming home he wanted to first buy a picture of the Beit HaMikdash – the Temple in Jerusalem. Totally surprised, she questioned how that could be more important than first coming home to see his family. He mentioned that the thing that so astonished him in Gaza was that in every home, in every child’s bedroom, there was a picture of the Al-Aqsa Mosque which appears on the emblem of Hamas. The same could be found in every government office and in every school classroom in Gaza. He was gobsmacked. He promised himself that when he would return home he would buy a picture of the Beit HaMikdash to put up in his room. He said that it is crystal clear what Hamas is fighting for – an all-out battle to conquer Jerusalem. He learned from this how equally clear we ought to be about what it is that we are defending: Jerusalem, the Temple Mount – our holiest and most sacred place. 

The Hamas emblem

Indeed, the Hamas emblem shows two crossed swords in front of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The mosque is flanked by two Palestinian flags with a statement in Arabic on each side: “There is no god but Allah” (right flag) and “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” (left flag). To Hamas, the aim is clear – the destruction of the Jewish state and the conquering of Jerusalem by the sword of Islam. No sharing, no caring, just death and destruction. 

The truth is, there is a critical lesson to learn specifically from Israel’s enemies. This point is highlighted in a fundamental point that Rav Soloveitchik makes regarding the nature of antisemitism and the spiritual meaning of Zionism and Jewish statehood. He taught that the Jewish people’s greatest spiritual endeavor in every generation is invariably met with the greatest opposition and condemnation from her enemies. He sharply observes that it is this very type of opposition that signals the holiness, importance and spirituality of the enterprise itself.1 Undoubtedly the greatest achievements in the last generation for Jewish collective existence have been the establishment of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem. And so it is no surprise that the Jewish people’s barbaric enemies wish to destroy exactly that – the State of Israel and Jewish Jerusalem. In their brutal hate, Hamas has made the symbol of their destructiveness clear – Jerusalem. 

It is important to clarify for ourselves what Jerusalem means to the Jewish people and why it is the crux of Jewish civilization. What is it, indeed, that we are defending? What does Jerusalem represent? 

An incredible source

1948 ushered in the miraculous establishment of Jewish sovereignty in our historic homeland and 19 years later the Jewish people returned to the ancient and holy city of Jerusalem. The universal meaning of this return and reunification of Jerusalem is best captured in the following astounding source. 

Over 800 years ago, one of Judaism’s greatest rabbis and rationalist thinkers, the Rambam, described what Jerusalem and the Temple Mount means to humanity:

“And it is a tradition accepted by all, that the place where David and Shlomo built the altar at the threshing floor of Aravna was the place that Avraham built the altar and bound Yitzchak upon it, and that was the place that Noach built an altar upon when he left the ark, and that was the altar upon which Kayin and Hevel sacrificed and upon which Adam sacrificed when he was created. And from there was born the saying of the Sages that ‘Man was created from the place of his atonement.’”2 

The implication is clear. The human saga began here and humanity’s spiritual destiny is inextricably linked to Jerusalem. At so many important junctures at the dawn of human destiny, Mount Moriah was pivotal. It was the place from where the clods of earth were taken to fashion Adam and Chava, the father and mother of mankind, and the altars of their children Kayin and Hevel. The greatest spiritual trial of the founding fathers of the Jewish people, Avraham and Yitzchak, transpired here and hence it became the locus of the Temple, the place where Heaven meets earth. The center of the Temple is the Holy of Holies, positioned exactly on top of the very foundation stone from whence Adam was created. So significant is this place that the place of human favor and Divine atonement must be intrinsically linked to it. 

Jerusalem, Mecca and the Vatican 

Jerusalem is the holiest place to the Jewish people and Judaism, and is the site of our Holy Temple – so much so that Jerusalem and Zion are mentioned over 800 times in the Tanach. Although not mentioned even once in the Quran, Jerusalem does have holy status for the other monotheistic religions and is therefore holy to over three-and-a-half billion people – to Jews, Christians and Muslims.  

I always marvel at the following astonishing fact which highlights the difference of the status of Jerusalem as opposed to that of the Vatican and Mecca. The Vatican is undoubtedly the holiest place for Catholics. A state in and of itself, it is the seat of the ultimate religious leader of the Catholic world, the Pope. Mecca and Medina are undoubtedly the holiest places for all Muslims, as both the birth and burial site of Muhammad. What I find incredible is that there are no synagogues or mosques in the Vatican and there are certainly no churches or synagogues in Mecca and Medina. The first is only holy to Catholic Christians and the second only to Islam. Yet incredibly, the Jewish people’s holiest site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, contains more synagogues, churches and mosques within a one kilometer radius than any other place on earth!  

Herein lies a transformative message. All wish to have a stake in Jerusalem, although they have other more holy sites. All somehow understand that whoever holds the keys to the city, holds the key to the spiritual destiny of the world. 

Universal Jerusalem  

Judaism embraces the universality of Jerusalem. Although the city is the Jewish people’s holiest site and place of fervent religious and spiritual worship, it is also the very same place that our great prophets have designated as the place of universal worship for all nations. Biblical literature is replete with this idea, with perhaps the most famous being the prayer we say on all of our three pilgrimage festivals: 

וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים אֶל הַר קָדְשִׁי… כִּי בֵיתִי בֵּית תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל הָעַמִּים.

“And I will bring them to My holy mountain… because My house will be a house of prayer for all people.” (Yeshayahu 56:7) 

In the Jewish worldview, there is no need for everyone to convert to Judaism to be spiritually redeemed. All nations are welcome to the Temple to pray. There is no inherent contradiction between the particularist message of the Jewish people and Torah Judaism and its universal message of being a light and source of blessing to all nations. 

Our sages refer to Jerusalem as “אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, the light of the world.” This, of course, is the light of life, of spiritual meaning and holy fervor which goes hand-in-hand with love of all people and finding a place for all people within its precincts. This could not be more different from the horrific death culture of Hamas. For them, the road to Al-Aqsa means death and destruction, sacrificing as many of their own as necessary without any moral compunction. It is a ‘holy’ martyrdom driven by fanaticism, hatred and intolerance. While Judaism and the West believe in ‘live and let live,’ radical Islam believes in murder and death – murdering others and dying in the process. Every fair-minded person knows that this is a clash of civilizations between those who cherish life and are driven by love and acceptance and those who are driven by a culture of murder, death and extreme intolerance. 

A House in Every Home 

When my wife, Shelley, read Batsheva Sadan’s post, she contacted her and told her of an initiative that this post had inspired her to do. Shelley, together with her friend Naomi Feinmesser, initiated a project called “בַּיִת בְּכָל בַּיִת, A House in Every Home” to bring a small and beautiful picture of the Temple to every home. Done in the merit of the hostages’ speedy return, amongst them our son Daniel, ה’ יִקּוֹם דָּמוֹ, the hope is that in as many homes as possible, there will be a yearning for the Beit HaMikdash. We believe it is important to not only have an unplastered wall to remember the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, but also to have a picture of the Beit HaMikdash as a sign of light, love and yearning for closeness to Hashem. 

The theme of this magazine is Milchamta shel Torah, the battle of Torah. This war has a deep spiritual element. May the self-sacrifice of our fighters on the front lines, known as סַיָּפָא, the sword of Israel’s defense, continue to be accompanied by the light and power of Torah, our spiritual raison d’être, known as סָפְרָא, the book. The light of Torah and our love of life will prevail over barbaric darkness and culture of death. Jerusalem and Judaism, Yom Yerushalayim and Shavuot, are our annual rendezvous with this critical call.

If you wish to order the Bayit Lechol Bayit picture created by Naomi Feinmesser, please fill out the form at tinyurl.com/bayitform. They are available for pickup in Yerushalayim.

 

1 Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Chamesh Drashot (2nd Edition, Jerusalem, 1975, Machon Tal Orot, pp. 110–111). These lectures were delivered at the annual Mizrachi conventions in the United States between 1961 and 1966.

2 Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Beit HaBechira, 2:2.

 

Rabbi Doron Perez is the Executive Chairman of World Mizrachi. 

© 2024 World Mizrachi

Follow us: