Thousands Mark Tisha B’av at the Western Wall

Thousands gathered today at the Western Wall for the fast of Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Throughout the night, Jews recited passages from the Book of Lamentations.

Prayers were also held at the Mughrabi gate to the Old City, leading to the Temple Mount, by a group which holds the view that Jews should have the right to pray on the Mount, a site which is sacred to both Jews and Moslems.

As in previous years, police denied the request of the 100 “Temple Mount Faithful” to pass beyond the gate and pray in the Temple Mount plaza. The group settled for prayers on the steps leading to the gate, as it has done on almost every Tisha B’Av since the Temple Mount was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

DISRUPTION BY KAHANE

The only exception yesterday was newly elected Knesset member Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Kach Party. He showed up with a small group of followers and pushed through the peaceful crowd of worshippers up to the police barriers set up in front of the gate.

Kahane was allowed to pass, but only after he reminded the police that he now has parliamentary immunity. Kahane pounded a few times on the locked gate, then took an Israeli flag he was carrying and spread it across the gate. Unable to find something on which to hang it, he gave up and folded the flag.

KACH LEADER SHOUTED DOWN, CRITICIZED

Police then escorted Kahane out of the area, through what had by now become an angry group of worshippers, who shouted down the Kach leader. “This is not the way,” said Gershon Solomon, the leader of the Temple Mount Faithful. “Our way is to struggle with love, not with hate.”

Former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren condemned Kahane’s ideas and methods as totally contrary to halachic (Jewish religious law) tradition. He said the Torah commands extending equal rights to minorities living in Eretz Yisrael, and especially to Moslems.

However, the noted historian, Yehoshafat Harkabi, said in aradio interview today, that Kahane’s ideas were not totally alien to Judaism. In addition, Harkabi noted, Kahane is motivated by a political belief and a logic that if Israel annexes the West Bank, the demographic change in favor of the Arabs would spell national suicide. “Therefore, he sees the deportation of the Arabs as the only way out,” Harkabi said. He warned, however, that Kahane’s plan might legitimize anti-Semitism around the world.

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