A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Temple Mount

Author Finds It Hard To Conceal His Jewishness

Occupying His Territory: Tuvia Tenenbom makes his way back from the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Getty Images
Occupying His Territory: Tuvia Tenenbom makes his way back from the Al-Aqsa mosque.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published November 11, 2013, issue of November 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but late last night, in the frightening darkness of my room in the holy city of Jerusalem, I felt I had had enough of being Jewish. How much, and how long, can a man be a light unto the nations?

And so, in the morning light I got up from bed, got dressed, ate my Last Breakfast, bid goodbye to the Bible and the Talmud on my iPad, walked out and hailed a taxi to Al-Aqsa. It was time to see what it was like to be a Muslim.

The cabbie tried speaking with me in Hebrew, thinking I was a Jew, but I let him know he couldn’t be any further from the truth. Immediately he switched to Arabic and asked if I want to get off at “the gate.” I had no clue what gate he had in mind, but I just said yes. Since I’m pretending to be an Occupied Palestinian, I should probably get used to saying yes to everything, I thought.

Within minutes we reached a road in East Jerusalem, and he told me that we had arrived. Where was the gate? Allah surely knew, but I didn’t. I walked up the road and found a gate, or something like it. Why did the cabbie drop me before the gate? I didn’t know. What I did know was this: At the gate there were cops, Israeli cops.

“Are you a Muslim?” one of them asked.

“I am!” I answered, without hesitation.

“Know the Quran?”

“Of course!

“Show me.”

How in the world was I supposed to show him? And why should I? But he had a gun, and I didn’t. So I said, “Ashahdu al-la Allah illallah uAshahdu an Muhammad-ar rasulallah [I testify that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet]. This is a declaration of faith, and according to the Islamic law, if a man says this he becomes a Muslim — in case he isn’t yet.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.