The Canadian political leadership witnessed first-hand the blatant discrimination against Jews at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
By Atara Beck
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who made an historic visit to Israel this week, had intended to visit the Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount Plaza while touring the Old City. That plan was foiled once his guards were told they could not enter the building because they were Jews, and Harper declined to go without them.
“This is exactly the issue that the HALIBA [Organization for Jewish Freedom on the Temple Mount] project addresses,” said Linda Olmert, a part of Haliba and a former Torontonian. “Freedom of worship and congregation is a matter of the most basic human rights. Having ensured the rights for Moslems within hours of hoisting the Israeli flag over the Temple Mount in 1967, it is absurd that Jews and Israelis must now demand right of worship and congregation for ourselves.
“PM Harper could not ascend to the Temple Mount because of his two Jewish security people, [which is] reminiscent of the foulness of darker times,” Olmert continued. “Will we have peace when Moslems are appeased by discriminating against Jews, or does true peace only have a chance when we share sacred space? HALIBA insists that there is room on the Temple Mount for everyone. Do we have a partner?”
The Hon. Stockwell Day, a former cabinet minister who had served as Canadian leader of the official Opposition when the Liberal government was in power, visited the Temple Mount site last Sunday at the invitation of a Jewish friend who goes regularly. A tiny window of opportunity exists most mornings for Jews to visit for a very limited time and under strict constraining rules that apply to non-Muslims only.
Day, who was part of the delegation that traveled to Israel with the Canadian prime minister, told United with Israel that he was “surprised and saddened” by the experience.
“It is one of history’s great ironies that Jews are discriminated against on what is their most sacred ground,” he stated. While Moslems, including children, could roam freely, “an official for the Waqf walked very closely” with Day and his friends, repeatedly warning them not to pray. Neither could they “appear to be praying” by closing their eyes or other seeming indications.
A professor who is an archaeological expert had brought along a textbook, including diagrams, but the Waqf official “took it from us to make sure no prayers were concealed inside,” Day said.
The officials assumed Day was also Jewish.
“I was honored to be thought of as a Jew,” he told UWI. “It was a badge of honor. But as a Christian and as someone who profoundly defends religious liberties for all, I found it sad and unfortunate.”
Discussing the widely known oppression of Christians as well throughout the region, other than in the Jewish state, Day pointed to the 2014 World Watch List published by the non-denominational group Open Doors USA. It lists North Korea as the biggest offender, followed by nine Moslem countries that practice persecution against Christians, “including death and physical assault,” Day said.
“In light of the constant false accusations about ‘Israeli apartheid’, I was surprised to see Jews being treated clearly as second-class citizens,” Day declared.
Larry Zeifman, a prominent pro-Israel activist who was also part of the Canadian delegation, knows Day well. Zeifman also understands the Canadian political scene and offered some background to Day’s decision to visit the Temple Mount as well as to the current government’s staunch support for Israel.
“In the late 1990s, the federal Progressive Conservative Party was not yet that conservative, and the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien consistently voted against Israel at the United Nations,” Zeifman said. “In 2000 the Canadian Alliance Party was formed by taking the Reform Party, which was largely a Western Canadian regional party, and bringing in other Conservatives from across the country. Stockwell Day had been the finance minister in the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, and was urged to run for the leadership of the new federal party.”
“Even before winning the leadership race, Stock began to reach out to the Jewish community,” Zeifman said. “We were all very impressed with his sincere concern for Israel.”
At a gala dinner honoring the Canadian leader on Tuesday evening, Zeifman continued, “a longtime [Zionist] activist compared Stockwell Day to the biblical Nachshon ben Aminadav, the first Hebrew to wade into the Red Sea up to his neck when the Jewish People left Egypt,” showing faith and courage. “I truly believe that Stockwell Day paved the way, like Nachshon, along with others [in Harper’s cabinet], for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s remarkable support for Israel and affinity for the Jewish People that we have been privileged to witness this week.”
Another little-known fact is that Day, as Opposition leader, had led the fight to have the terrorist Hezbollah group banned in Canada. Although many in the Liberal party take credit for outlawing the organization, it was Day who fought determinedly to achieve that win, according to documented evidence.