“Jerusalem is a port city on the shore of eternity.” –Yehuda Amichai
Ever since the Israel-Palestinian Accords of 2022, it was illegal for a Jew to even visit the Kotel, let alone ascend to the top of the Temple Mount. The Muslim Holy places, the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and the Dome of the Chain, would be soiled if a Jew even breathed the same air, or so it was said by the Islamic Mullahs. But Ezra Koen had grown up with as many Arab friends as Jews, so he knew which of the guards could be trusted to turn a blind eye…for a price (though the price these days was greatly prohibitive).
It had been fourteen years since a Jew had prayed on the Temple Mount, and the last man to do so, Rabbi Ari Boker, was arrested by the Palestinian State Police, and was rumored to have died in prison after a long period of torture.
Ezra was a nineteen year old Yeshiva student and already was thought to have a very promising Rabbinic career ahead of him, but lately, his most defining characteristic, at least in his own mind, was that he was a dreamer.
In the noble legacy of the Prophet Joseph, who had risen from slavery to being second only to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, in power and stature in that ancient Empire, the man who had fed the world, Ezra also had dreams he could not dismiss or ignore.
The dreams were always of the Temple Mount, the Holiest site in Israel, the House of Prayer for the Jewish people and perhaps for all the nations as well. The United Nations had declared it “occupied” territory in 2017, and after the brief term in office of the only American President in modern times who truly was a friend to the Jewish homeland, the United States elected yet another anti-Semite to the White House, and the world turned against Israel the way a rabid dog might turn on a once beloved friend.
Ezra was Israel’s only hope. That sounded arrogant, even to him, but he knew it. The dreams urged him to believe it, to have faith, to have hope, and to take action. All he had to do was commit a capital crime. All he had to do was be a Jew and pray on the Temple Mount.
It was the days between Pesach and Shavuot, the days of the Counting of the Omer. Pesach commemorated what most non-Jews called “the Passover,” Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt, and Shavuot, what the Christians called “Pentecost,” was the observance of the day when Hashem gave the Torah to Israel through His servant Moshe.
More specifically, today was Lag BaOmer, which traditionally observed the death of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai. It was said that when Rebbi Shimon taught, his house was filled with fire and light for the whole day. Traditionally, bonfires were lit all over the Land of Israel every year, and the Zohar was studied in an attempt to recreate that mystic revelation.
Today, observing Lag BaOmer by lighting bonfires was illegal, though there were always those few who would go into the Negev and risk lighting the fires in defiance of Palestinian and U.N. dictates.
Ezra had quietly passed the guards and stood under a brilliant night sky. It was just past midnight. He had a jacket on against the cool Spring air, but he was still shivering, probably more from excitement than the cold.
He was too consumed with the dreams, and quite frankly, with the enthusiasm of youth, to think he could be making a mistake, that praying to Hashem on the Temple Mount might end in disaster. He believed something astounding was going to take place. All he had to do was pray, to be the key to enter the lock. Hashem would do the rest.
Ezra opened his backpack and carefully removed his tallit, tefillin, and his siddur.
He recited the appropriate blessings for donning what the Goyim called a “prayer shawl” and “phylacteries.” Then he turned the pages of his siddur to the prayers appropriate for this day.
There was just enough light for him to read the Hebrew text. He began his prayers to Hashem, prayers dedicated to Lag BaOmer (the English translation is presented here):
Master of the Universe, full of mercy, open Your heavenly treasury and bestow a new light upon us on this holy and awesome day. It is the day on which the soul of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is revealed and shines with a new light. This light opens all the heavens for us and brings down the comprehension of G-dliness for the entire year. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai rectified the sin of Adam HaRishon completely. He restored all of the lights—the hidden, primordial, and pure lights of the highest spheres—to their source. Even Moshe Rabbeinu needed Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, for when Moshe ascended to the heavens, to the place where the holy Tablets were hidden, the soul of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai manifested within him as he fought with the angels.
The prayer was quite lengthy and Ezra proceeded rapidly. The memories of his dreams urged him on, as well as the distinct possibility that he would be caught before finishing.
And strangers will build up the walls of Yerushalayim, and their kings will place gemstones upon your gates, to the Holy One of Israel Who has glorified you.
He was nearly finished when he heard angry voices ordering him in both Arabic and Hebrew to stop his prayers.
Violence will no more be heard in your land, wasting nor destruction in your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. Your sun will go down no longer, nor will your moon withdraw itself.
The guards, certainly not the ones he’d bribed, probably Palestinian Police, ordered Ezra to stop three times, and he still continued praying. He heard them cock their pistols.
And the mountain of Hashem will be established at the head of the mountains, and all the nations will stream to you.
Ezra heard the first gunshot and felt a dull thud against his upper right back, which nearly knocked him off his feet.
And they will bring all your brothers on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon fleet camels, to My holy mountain Yerushalayim studded with sapphires.
A second shot, a third. Ezra continued to stand and pray, but he was going into shock. If only he could complete the prayer before he passed out.
Who has ever heard the like, who has seen anything like this? They that spoiled you will be for spoil, for you will be a desirable land. Your land will no longer be called desolate, nor will Yerushalayim be called a wilderness, but you will be called Cheftzi–Va (“my delight is in her”) and Yerushalayim will be called Praise.
Another shot. He couldn’t hear the sound of his own voice, the page was blurring in front of his eyes, but the final passage blazed like Hashem atop Mt. Sinai in his thoughts.
You will call out then in the name of Hashem, and with the light of the Tzaddik who is called Leviathan, your light will shine from one end of the earth to the other. Every wall will shine in you, and every heart will burn with the fire of the Tzaddik. Amein.
Ezra didn’t know how many more times he had been shot in those last few seconds. He was dead before he hit the ground.
Amazingly, he was still standing. The Arabs couldn’t see him. They ran forward, past him, and were checking the body.
Ezra looked above his head, and sky opened up to eternity. Hashem, Master of the Legions of Heaven’s Armies was coming to redeem His people Israel for the final time.
Sh’ma Yisra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, O’ Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.
The fullness of the Gentiles was complete. King Messiah would rule the nations from his throne in Holy Jerusalem forever more, and Israel would be the eternal head of all creation.
My inspiration for this short story was the simple, one sentence quote from Yehuda Amichai that is posted at the top of the page. I imagined standing on the top of the Temple Mount at midnight and watching the sky tear open to reveal the shores of eternity to the entire world. The story just sort of “happened” after that.