The above picture, one I took on a recent trip to Israel, presents great difficulties to me as a Religious Zionist. I can recall the emotions I felt as I photographed the candid scene of four Israeli soldiers gazing down at the Kotel (Western Wall). The obvious beauty in the sharp contrast of golden stones and green uniforms. The way the light played tricks on my eyes, allowing me for a moment to forget the Mosque towering above the Wall on my left.
The words of Moshe Dayan after the Six Day War came to mind: “Har Habayit B’Yadenu!” (The Temple Mount is in our hands!) I was overcome by the sheer luck I have at being able to stand at the exact spot my ancestors cried over, with fellow Jews guarding my steps. But seeing soldiers overlooking what I believe to be the holiest spot in Israel brought tears to my eyes for a different reason: it reminded me of the transience and uncertainty of Israel’s situation. Yes, Har Habayit B’Yadenu – but who knows for how long? Realism and Zionism collided for me as I stood, rooted to the ground, deep in thought.
But most of all, I was struck by the false sense of security the site engendered for me, a girl who has grown up singing “Eretz Yisrael Sheli” (My Land of Israel) in school plays and at camp bonfires. The fact is, it is not just my land. I share it with an indigenous population that I know has a right to a country as well. As painful as it is for me to admit, I know I am not the only one with a visceral connection to that small strip of land. And that is precisely why I still have trouble looking at this picture. Har Habayit B’Yadenu… but at the expense of thousands of people. Har Habayit B’Yadenu… but I know, deep down, that the settlements in which some of my friends live are a great impediment to peace. Har Habayit B’Yadenu… but my religious convictions about holding on to land conflict with my logical convictions about the peace process.
So the bitter confusion between Israeli soldiers, which represent occupation and disengagement, and the Kotel, which represents the epicenter of my religion, rages on in this photograph. And it rages on in me.
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