Should You Read The Old Testament Or New Testament First A House of Prayer for All Peoples?

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A House of Prayer for All Peoples?

On Simhat Torah (Festival of Joy of the Law/Last Great Day) I went up to the Temple Mount with my Bible to pray. Although I don’t usually wear a kippah (hat), I brought one with me.

My first challenge was to get past the guards at the entrance to the Temple Mount; when they saw me with my Bible, they wouldn’t let me in. I prayed silently all the way to the place where the Temple of God stood twice and would be rebuilt for the third and last time, so that I could enter. I passed the guards.

Are you saying that Jewish security guards are preventing Christians and Jews from exercising their religious right to pray on the Temple Mount? That’s right! Only Muslims have unrestricted access to Judaism’s holiest site. Only the Koran is allowed inside. The Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures known to most of the world as the “Old Testament”) and the Christian Scriptures (the New Testament) are forbidden. However, Israel claims to respect the religious rights of all people.

There is no law in Israel that prohibits Christians and Jews from praying or reading the Holy Scriptures on the Temple Mount. However, he has an unwritten agreement with the waqf (Muslim religious authority) that forbids it. No sign saying, “Warning! Christian and Jewish prayers are prohibited! Muslim religious authorities do not allow Bibles. Proceed with caution!”

I do not accept that Muslims have the right to prohibit me from reading the relevant psalms or the New Testament account of Jesus celebrating the pouring out of the water ceremony (Psalms 120-134, John 7:37). My question was where should I read these passages? I ended up between the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, just to the right of where Muslims wash their hands and feet. I was on the other side of the raised platform as you face the Omar Mosque.

At first I sat and read nervously. Then I put on my black kippah, stood up and began to read for a few minutes until I was distracted by the fear of being attacked by the Muslim guards. I sat down, took off my kippah and continued reading. Then one of the Wakf guards noticed me and asked me what I was reading. I replied, “Yes, that’s my book.” He took it from me and saw that it was a Bible. He demanded to know if I was a Christian or a Jew. When I told him I was a Christian, he asked me why I was wearing a magen David (Star of David).

I didn’t feel obligated to explain that it was a gift from my mother and younger sister and told him, “Give me back my Bible.” He ordered, “You must leave now!” I said again, “Give me back my Bible.” When he refused, I demanded it back louder. He raised his fist as if to hit me and warned me not to raise my voice. This attracted the attention of some tourists who had gathered around us. I told them, “That thief stole my Bible!”

The Wakf guard again told me to leave and threatened to hit me. He said he would give me back my Bible on the street. Since he had no reason to confiscate it in the first place, I told him to give it back to me right then and I’d be on my way. At that moment, he called an Israeli policeman on the walkie-talkie, who came running. The Israeli handcuffed my right hand, which I raised and showed to the assembled tourists, saying, “This is Israeli democracy!” I repeatedly asked the Israelite, “What law have I broken?” knowing that I had not broken any law, but was treated like a common criminal.

I am shocked that Jewish police in a Jewish state help support Muslim rule on the Temple Mount by suppressing Christian and Jewish religious rights there. Is it the Temple Mount or the Mosque Mount?

An Israeli policeman took me away. I said to the astonished tourists: “This is what happens to a Christian or a Jew who wants to read the Bible where the holy Temple stood. This is what happens to Christians and Jews who want to pray where our prophets and patriarchs prayed and where Jesus and his disciples taught.”

Why exclusive religious rights for Muslims? And Israel wants to hand over control of Rachel’s Tomb, Bethlehem and Joseph’s Tomb to Muslim religious authorities?! Are they crazy or what?

At the Western Wall Plaza police station, the officers wanted to know who else was with me. They were relieved to find that I was alone. (They had to know I was following the order [religious commandment]). The police said they arrested me for my own protection. I told them that they should have arrested the waqf guard who threatened me! Why not eliminate the threat of Muslim violence once and for all? Why reward Muslim extremists?

The police laughed in disbelief when I told them I was a Christian and that my Bible included the New Testament, which they returned to me. The Druze officer said, “But you must respect other religions.” He was silent when I asked, “Where is their respect for mine?” I explained that our biblical purpose is to enable everyone to come and pray on the mountain where the Temple of God stood and in the Temple when it is rebuilt. It is prophesied that it will become a “House of Prayer” for all nations.

The police told me I could go back to the Temple Mount as a tourist – without my Bible. I said I didn’t want to go there just as a “tourist”; I want to pray there. When asked how many times I had been there, I said “a thousand”. They recorded this in their report. They said I could make a brief statement for the record. I said something along the lines of, “Is it too much to ask on the 3000th anniversary of King David’s Jerusalem to peacefully recite his inspired words on the Temple Mount?”

When I left the police station, one of the policemen told me that I had done a good thing. When I went outside, I was met by Jews who saw the incident and congratulated me.

I pray that this unfortunate encounter will raise awareness of Israel’s religious discrimination against Christians and Jews. The situation must change. It will be if enough people shout “Enough!” (Italian for “enough!”).

May the day soon come when Christians, Jews and Muslims can say: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7). The Bible says

“Also, about the sojourner who is (not) from your people, Israel, but comes from a far country for your name’s sake. and will come and pray in this house. Hear You in the heavens, where You live, and do everything that the foreigner calls You to do, so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, so that they may fear You, as (they do) Your people Israel, so that they may know that Your name is called upon in this house, which I built.’ (I Kings 8:41-43)

“And the foreigners who will join the Lord to serve Him and love the name of the Lord, to be His servants – all those who honor the Sabbath – I will bring them to My holy mountain and comfort them in My house, their prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)

“And it shall come to pass at the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established upon the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and the nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples will go and say: “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord… and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths”, because the Torah will come out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:1-2)

(This article was originally published in the Jerusalem-based Root and Branch Association Newsletter, January 1996.)

See Israel’s Holy Sites Protection Act of 1967, which they failed to enforce and refused to uphold.

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