It is well-known that Jews are restricted from praying on the Temple Mount but a recent encounter illustrated how Christians who revere the site are treated in the same roughshod manner by the Waqf (Islamic Religious Authority). This battle for religious equality will determine whether the Temple Mount will take to its Biblical and prophesied role as a “House of Prayer for all Nations.”
Hayovel, an organization that brings Christian volunteers to work in the vineyards of Samaria, took a group of its volunteers to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Ben Hilton, the media director for Hayovel, was leading a group of volunteers when he was confronted by a Waqf guard.
“There was one particular Waqf guard who didn’t take kindly to us talking about the Beit Hamikdash (Jewish Temple) on the Temple Mount,” Hilton told Breaking Israel News. “We were talking about the sanctuary and what the experience was like.”
The guard approached Hilton and told him, “You have to respect the place.”
He then insisted they leave but Hilton calmly refused.
“We have quite a bit of experience and we know that the Waqf gives us a hard time but the police have the real authority,” Hilton said. “We got them involved and they were amazing in handling the situation. The Waqf wanted to kick us off but the police let us stay up for a good long time after the confrontation.”
Caleb Waller, director of public relations for Hayovel, was with the group on the Temple Mount.
“It was really amazing to witness,” Caleb told Breaking Israel News. “The Waqf guard slapped a cell phone out of the hand of one of the volunteers because he was recording the encounter. Ben told me that he was full of love for the Waqf guard throughout the encounter, that he understood the guard was a victim of circumstances. That’s really the kind of energy that should be brought to such a holy place, not hatred or anger. And you could see that it is precisely the energy that is needed to be on the Temple Mount because the Waqf guard was really scared of Ben.”
As a response to the encounter, the volunteers joined together for a selfie video in which they declared “Har Habayit B’Yadenu” (The Temple Mount is in our hands). This was the declaration made by the IDF troops after conquering the site in the 1967 Six-Day War. The phrase, famous in Israel as a stirring declaration that the Jews’ 2,000 year dream had been fulfilled, took on a different meaning when shouted by the Christian volunteers.
“We for sure recognize the Temple Mount as the location of the Temple,” Hilton said. “For God’s presence to be there, the Jewish people need sovereignty. This would benefit all faiths and all people. When we go up, we not only experience the beginnings of God’s presence and imagine what could be there but we also go to represent that we recognize that Jewish sovereignty.”
It is interesting to note that their enthusiasm for the Temple Mount has led the Muslim and Israeli authorities to place the same restrictions on them as they do on Jewish visitors to the site.
“When we go up, we are treated as a Jewish group by the police and the Waqf,” Hilton said. “It may be because we dress modestly, like the Jews who visit the site, and we talk about the Temple while we are up there. So now we get a police escort and the Waqf watches us to make sure we don’t pray. To the Waqf, it is the same thing. They don’t care if we are Christian or Jewish. Anyone who honors the site as the Temple Mount is a threat to what they are trying to do up there.”
“Many people don’t realize that the ban is not just on Jewish prayer but on any non-Muslim prayer,” Hilton explained. “They tell us that when we go up. It isn’t just a Muslim conflict with Israel. The ban is specifically against the place becoming a House of Prayer for All Nations.”
Despite the conflict brewing on Israel’s southern border and the threats in the north, Waller feels the real conflict is for the Temple Mount, the heart of Israel.
“We aren’t fighting against flesh and blood,” Walller explained. “There is a spiritual battle for the Temple Mount but not against Muslims,” Waller said. “We had a little bit of a rough experience with the Waqf but we also feel very blessed that we are living in a time when there is actually Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount. It is clear that God’s plan centers on that place and it is going to happen soon.”