Friday, July 12, 2013

Progressive Women aren't the only ones facing a discrimination problem in Jerusalem

Over the last several weeks, the DovBear community has been consumed with the injustice of disallowing one group, and only one group, of people - progressive women - from praying at the kotel in the manner they wish, and with the acrobatic, anachronistic, often asinine apologetics offered by famous Rabbis in defense of that injustice.

It's been a blast.

Now, its time for something new.

In Jerusalem, progressive women aren't the only group of people facing illiberal restrictions. At another site, Jewish people are banned entirely. I'm speaking of the Temple Mount, which can be accessed by no fewer than nine gates. At each of those gates, aside from the Moughrabi where very limited access is permitted,  a pair of Jewish policemen are posted, with strict instructions to turn away every non-Muslim who seeks to enter.

Earlier this week, I sent a pair of friends to the Iron Gate on my behalf. I asked them to request entry.*

Here's is their report:
Hi DovBear: Yesterday [J] and [B] went to the Iron Gate, and spoke to the two policemen sitting there. Both of us were wearing caps, T-shirts and khakis. Our tzitzis were not showing, and there was nothing about us that looked expressly Jewish. [They don't have payus] Our [English] conversation went like this:
Me: Good morning
P1: [Grunt]
P2: [Frown]
J: Can we go through?
P1: Not allowed.
P2: Go to Moughrabi Gate before 1 pm
B: Well, why can't we go through this way?
P1: No one is allowed through this way. 
Just then an obvious Muslim approached and went in without challenge 
B: Wait. You mean SOME aren't allowed through, right?
P1: No one is allowed through this way.
B: How can you say NO ONE when SOME ONE just went through?
P2: Go to Moughrabi Gate before 1 pm
DB, that's more or less how it went. We didn't stay and chat, as the cops clearly were not interested in conversation. 
Of course, I find this appalling.

If one group is permitted to enter, why can't other groups enter as well? The Temple Mount is a public place, so it should be open to everyone, and the police should not be used as instruments of a religious agenda. The police should be protecting the rights of everyone, and ensuring that all have equal access to a place of public accommodation. [Sound familiar? It should: We say the same thing when the cops prevent progressive women from approaching the kotel.]

This is a not a religious question. It is a civil rights question. Even if you, personally, have no wish to enter the Temple Mount compound, you should support the idea that the government must never afford one religion special privileges or use the police to inhibit anyone's civil rights

My proposed solution will appear in the next post.

*Attention Junior Rabbis: While it's true that most Haredi poskim say that neither Jew nor non-Jew may stand on the Temple Mount, many non-Haredi poskim, and some Haredi poskim, concede that its okay to enter the complex so long as you don't stand ont he spot where the Holy of Hoilies once stood. That spot can be easily avoided if you stay on the permiter. One of my friends, was reluctant to do even that, so I asked him to stay at the doorway, and peer in without entering. This, too, was disallowed by the policemen.

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