The Question Is: Why Are You Not Praying?

Henry David Thoreau spent time in the hoosegow for not paying a poll tax that offended his conscience. He got a writing gig out of the event, “Civil Disobedience”, so he had little to complain about.

That didn’t stop him, of course. Supposedly, when his pal Ralph Waldo Emerson came to visit him in jail, Emerson asked more in sorrow than in anger, “Henry, what are you doing in there?”

To which Thoreau replied: “The real question, Ralph, is why you have such a ridiculous name.” No—I mean, Thoreau replied: “The real question, Ralph, is what are you doing out there?”

I would have reached through the bars and throttled the smug SOB.

But maybe he had a point:

Moshe Feiglin, a Knesset candidate on behalf of the joint Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu list, was removed from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tuesday after trying to pray at the site. Police detained him for questioning.

He was removed from the site by an undercover cop. There were no other disruptions.

Sources close to Feiglin said this isn’t the first time he visited the Temple Mount in order to pray. “If the police want to prevent him from praying at the site for fear of riots they must give a detailed explanation and not just ban the practice,” one source said.

The sources claim Feiglin was detained and asked to sign a paper stating he will not try to pray at the site again. They noted he refused to sign the paper. Police nevertheless released him with no restrictions.

A similar incident occurred some two months ago. Feiglin was brought before a court on suspicion he violated prayer laws at the Temple Mount.

On Tuesday it was reported that Feiglin, considered the Likud’s most extreme figure, was asked not to give interviews by the election campaign. “My messages do not always correspond with the messages my party tries to convey and that is why I stay silent and don’t give interviews,” he said.

Feiglin is not without controversy, but, like Thoreau, he has been willing to defy the law when it violates his conscience.

In fact, he makes a habit of it.

MK to be Moshe Feiglin, who made the number 14 spot on the Likud Knesset list, on Monday morning managed to surprise many yet again when he showed up on Temple Mount with a minyan and conducted a prayer service.

For years, Israeli governments, police and, naturally, the Arab Waqf, have been preventing Jews visiting Temple Mount, warning that such an attempt on the part of Jews to connect with their father in Heaven would surely start never-before-seen riots that would sweep the Middle east in rivers of blood.

Nevertheless, despite those apocalyptic warnings, there are no actual laws on the books explicitly prohibiting prayer – because that would be a blatant violation of several Geneva conventions and UN human rights declarations, to say the least. And so the prohibitions against Jews praying at the site of our forefathers’ Temple hide behind ordinances against disorderly conduct, with the cops on the spot empowered to interpret the rules as they see fit.

On Monday morning, as documented by the Channel 10 News camera, Feiglin davened with a minyan on Temple Mount and the world did not erupt in flames. Even the Muslims preferred to keep mum about it.

Feiglin’s statement regarding the event was posted on his Facebook page after his primary election a week ago: “This is just the beginning, until we arrive at building the Temple on top of Temple Mount, and accomplish our goals in this land.”

That was in early December, so he makes a habit of it.

When I was in India, I first learned of the Mughal ritual of building Muslim mosques atop the ruins of conquered Hindu shrines. Such “recycling” of locations and materials was not unique to Muslims, but given the breadth of the Islamic world, their practice was one of the most widespread. It should not be surprising that some people have never totally accepted the results as final.

We can argue about the man, his beliefs, and his tactics, but his cause does seem just—at least in this case. That Jews are not aloud to pray on the site of the “house for My name” does seem an affront not only to Jews, but to anyone with a sense of fairness and justice. That Feiglin is willing to risk arrest and imprisonment gives him greater legitimacy.

Thoreau, Gandhi, King Jr. … Feiglin?

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