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.
Isi Tenenbom
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.
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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.


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