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Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and the Light of Hanukkah

Sunday evening marks the start of Hanukkah – a time of year when the Jewish people light the hanukkiah, remember the story of the Maccabees, and eat all things fried. President Trump, however, hit on the heart of Hanukkah in his speech at the White House Hanukkah celebration, moments before he signed a historic executive order combating anti-semitism in America. He said:

“This afternoon we celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah. More than 2,000 years ago a ruthless tyrant persecuted the Jewish people, and desecrated the temple of Jerusalem. But a group of Jewish patriots defeated a powerful army, rededicated the temple and won back their right to worship God in freedom.”

Indeed, the Temple is a central theme in the story of Hanukkah. According to legend, when Judah Maccabee cleansed the Temple, they found only enough pure oil to keep the menorah lit for a short time. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days and nights, which is the reason that Hanukkah is kept for eight nights today, the Jewish people lighting an additional candle each night of the holiday.

Since the Temple is a central theme in Hanukkah, I’d like to touch on several controversial stories surrounding the Temple Mount in recent weeks. 

On December 11th, Breaking Israel News reported that a member of the Waqf was arrested for yelling curses at Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a former member of Knesset and Temple Mount activist. Glick miraculously survived an assassination attempt in 2014 when an Arab terrorist shot him point blank in the chest directly after he had finished speaking at a conference about the Temple Mount. While Glick was visiting the Temple Mount recently, a member of the Waqf followed him and yelled curses and obscenities at him. In a positive move from the Israeli police, the Waqf guard was arrested and banned from the Temple Mount area for one week. 

On December 12th, the Jerusalem Post reported that Jewish prayer was being allowed on the Temple Mount. Despite the claims of the Israeli police that the status quo on the Mount had not changed, photos and videos indeed showed a group of Jewish men praying while visiting the Temple Mount area. The police were not hindering them from their prayers.

Just this week, however, the police arrested a man on the Temple Mount for placing a ring on his fiancee’s finger while visiting the Temple Mount. The two had traveled all the way from Hadera in Israel’s north the day before their wedding, to make their engagement official in the most important place in the world. They simply wanted to have a special and holy moment in the holiest spot in the world, and yet, the man was arrested.

How do these three stories go together? In my personal experience, the situation on the Temple Mount has improved in recent years. Instead of protests, yelling and sometimes riots that were previously experienced on a regular basis, one can peacefully enjoy a visit to the Mount, although in theory, prayer is still forbidden. Visits to the Temple Mount have increased as well. According to Rabbi Yehuda Glick, non-Muslim tourists visiting the Temple Mount has increased from 180,000 to 800,000 in recent years. 

Hanukkah is the festival of light. The story of Hanukkah tells how the light in the Temple miraculously lasted for eight days until more oil could be found. Isaiah 49:6 speaks about Israel being a light unto the nations. Isaiah 56:7 says that “…My House [the temple] will be a house of prayer for all nations.” 

To bring this all together, in step with the theme of Hanukkah, the light from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount will one day come forth from Israel to the nations. What happens on the Temple Mount changes day by day, and complete freedom is still not to be found there, but we can see glimmers of hope, similar to the menorah. May there be another miracle soon when the light from Jerusalem will burn continuously, no more to be snuffed out by those who oppose God’s Word. 

May Jerusalem’s light shine bright during this season of Hanukkah. 

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