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Harassed for Being a Jew
By Gennadiy Baruch Faybyshenko
After spending three weeks in Israel, a day before my trip was over, I decided to go up to the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Morriah, located in the Old City of Jerusalem. According to Jewish Law, a person must immerse himself in a ritual bath called Mikvah and take off any leather that he is wearing. Only then, he may walk on certain designated areas on the mount.
There are various religious opinions where a person may walk, but there are mutual agreed places where walking on the mount is allowed. In reality, a person may walk in places where Herod the Great built an additional mount during the time of the reconstruction of the Second Temple . However, it is better to walk with an accompanied person who knows a way so as not to walk into restricted places, where Holly of Hollies exists. I went to the Western Wall few times and decided that it was a time for me to go to the most holiest site in Judaism, a place where Abraham was asked by G-d to sacrifice his only son Isaac, a place where both Holly Temples stood and without any doubt a place where our third Temple will stand.
After completing all of the pre-requirements I finally was able to ascend the mount. Walking to the right of the Western Wall's women section, there is an elevation with an entrance to the Mugrabim Gate. The security personnel asked me where I was from and I replied from America. I was warned to hide my yarmulke (head cover) and tzitzit (a four fringe garment). I tugged tzitzit in and placed a baseball cap on my head to look like a typical tourist. Since the person I planed to go with could not make it, he advised me to meet any Jew and walk with along with him.
After the check point, I met a Jewish man (wearing yarmulke) with his daughter and asked him if I can tour with him. I told him that I was Jewish and to prove it I slightly uncovered my baseball hat. Within less than half a minute the police ran up to me and pointed fingers at me by calling me Yehudi, a Jew. I could see anger in them. It appeared that they were shocked that I was a Jew and did not tell them that while I was passing through the check point. I told them that I was an American citizen and even offered to show them my American passport. It seemed that my American passport was like garlic shown to a Dracula who backs off from his victims without hesitations. They told me that they will follow me on the mount and asked the Arab Waqf guard to do the same.
A few minutes later, a few more policemen came in and told me that I am an Israeli Jew and Jews are not really welcome here. But when I told them that I was an American, they backed off. They constantly were their pointing fingers at me and calling and yelling, "a Jew," which was a great offense to me. Through out the time I heard the word Jew called many times; they wanted me to admit that I was an Israeli Jew. When I made a small stop to take a photo, the policemen who were following us ran up to me and said that by no means I am allowed to pray here and if I do, I will get arrested. Every move that I made, the policemen were describing in the radio. I never felt so much harassment and discrimination. They were constantly reminding that Jews are not suppose to be here.
I thought that Israel is a democratic State and they respect every religion. But if Israel claims to be a Jewish State, in particular, then they should by far respect Judaism and allow Jews to go to their most Holy place. It is not that I am some sort of criminal, or a fugitive looking to hide. I am a tourist holding an American passport and visiting the Jewish State, which I have full rights to visit.
I traveled to different places around the world, but never have I experienced such racism towards me just for wearing a yarmulke. Never in Europe have I been to a place that officially did not want Jews to enter. I have passed through thousands of holy places while touring Europe, indeed while passing through the Churches, I was invited to tour their places which were build a century or more ago. I really appreciated the art and architecture. I surprised then when I thought that I could feel home in Israel since the Israeli government promises to every Jew that this is his home land. I felt hurt and I believe that the Israeli government should give me an apology for the descrimination that I felt by their police.
from the July 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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