by: Nathan Williams, BFP Staff Writer
It is said to be the most painful experience that a parent will ever have to endure—the death of a child. On June 29, 2016—the beginning of the summer school holidays in Israel—Hallel Yaffa Ariel HYʺD (may HaShem avenge her blood) was sleeping in late. Young Ariel’s hometown, Kiryat Arba, is a stone’s throw away from the biblical city of Hebron which has been a hotbed for violent attacks in recent months. Despite Israeli Defense Forces [IDF] troops watching over the Israeli citizens who live within the vicinity of Hebron, a terrorist managed to breach the security fence around Kiryat Arba. Security forces were alerted to the presence of the intruder, but the response team was too late and at 8:44 a.m. the terrorist entered the Ariel home, savagely murdering 13 year-old Hallel in her bed. May her memory be a blessing.
The tragedy caused a nationwide surge of unity, as Israelis from across the country joined together to mourn with the Ariel family at the funeral held in Hebron. In spite of Rina Ariel’s travail in mourning, visitors stood amazed at the strength which Hallel’s mother displayed in making a poignant speech after the young girl’s funeral. In a video posted by Arutz Sheva, Rina Ariel declared to the crowd, “She (Hallel) has all of you, she has become a daughter of all Israel. We have to continue, we have to plant the grapes and drink the wine and dress ourselves and go up to Har HaBayit (Temple Mount).”
The emotive words of this grieving mother touch deep into the psyche of almost every religious Jewish person. On a yearly basis on the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, the Jewish people fast and pray commemorating Tisha B’Av. As a unified people they remember the destruction of the First Temple and Second Temple and recall with longing a time when the glory of God dwelt among men.
Members of the Ariel family are faithful visitors to the Temple Mount, with the young victim having joined them on many occasions. Following the traditional seven-day mourning period, Rina and her husband Amichai Ariel released a personal message on social media. In it they called on Israelis to join them as they ascended the Temple Mount in memory of Hallel, not from a place of hate or war, but from a place of strengthening the Jewish peoples’ hearts.
The Ariel family further called upon the Israeli government to rename the Mughrabi Gate to Sha’ar Hallel (Gate of Praise) in memory of their slain daughter. On July 12th, the Ariel family gathered just outside the Western Wall plaza, to ascend the Temple Mount via the Mughrabi Gate, which is the only gate through which non-Muslims may currently enter the Temple Mount complex. According to the Times of Israel, the two members of Knesset (Israel’s parliament), Uri Ariel and Yehuda Glick, who were in attendance were refused entry to the Temple Mount to join the memorial service.
In a video posted to social media by Zeal for Zion TV, Rina Ariel declared that “Every Jew that enters this gate will remember to praise the Creator of the Universe.” Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel of The Land of Israel Network affirmed that the aim of the memorial was to turn the pain of the Ariel family into productivity, to turn the sadness into sanctification. He further envisioned the event as a means for the Jewish people to take one step closer to reclaiming their rights to pray as a free people in their land.
Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron, further reiterated that there needs to be allowance for Jewish access to the Temple Mount to worship: “Here we are today, thousands of people come to the entrance of the Temple Mount to demand of our government to stop being afraid and to give us basic minimal human rights, to have the right to speak, to pray, to walk in freedom in the place that is most historic to us.”
The gathering reflected a profound yearning in the heart of the Jewish community in Israel to reinstate the House of God on Earth, to rebuild His dwelling place that had been destroyed so many centuries ago. However, not all Israelis, and not all Jews, are in agreement with this sentiment. Up to this point in Israel’s history as a nation, this question has remained on the back burner due to its propensity to provoke a violent backlash from Muslims.
Most Israelis remember all too clearly the actions of Ariel Sharon, at that time the leader of the Likud party, who along with other Likud delegates made a visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000. Violence erupted in Jerusalem. This moment in history will now forever be remembered as the starting point of the Second Intifada, where Israeli–Palestinian violence intensified and only ceased in February 2005.
The public and vocal support of the Ariel family for the Jews to have access to the Temple Mount has ignited a renewed awareness of their lack of rights. As a family the Ariels used their grief—a grief shared with so many other families who have suffered loss due to terrorism—to unite Israelis and propel the Temple Mount debate to the foreground. With hindsight one can understand why so many Israelis have come to terms with the status quo on the Temple Mount. But looking to the future, there is a burning question in many Jewish minds—whether the loss of human life supersedes the importance of reinstating a place of worship for the God of Israel, a place where His glory may reside.
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