Nir Barkat Tells A Whopper

Having risen to pray while it was still dark outside, and having eaten the holiday meal with my family, I settled down with the Rosh Hashana edition of the Jerusalem Post for some well-earned down time. So there I was, just minding my own business, when the following words jumped out at me from the pages of the In Jerusalem supplement.

“Today, unlike it was for so long, there is full freedom of religion for everyone. The Muslims manage their own sites, the Christians manage their sites, the Jews manage their own religious sites. There is freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom of employment.”


This was Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, speaking to the editor of In Jerusalem, Peggy Cidor, in a Rosh Hashana interview entitled Mr. Mayor (the text of which is unfortunately unavailable online except to paid subscribers to the Jerusalem Post).

I kind of like Barkat. He’s pretty much a straight shooter. But in this particular case, he told a whopper of a lie. Not only is Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, not managed by Jews, access to the Temple Mount is, for Jews, severely restricted. Even when Jews are allowed on the Mount, they are forbidden to pray to their God or even to give the appearance of praying. Should a Jew move his lips while standing on the holiest Jewish site, he is liable to be arrested. This is freedom of religion??

I was irked. I saw red. And I told myself I would write a letter to the editor. Which I did.

The following is my just emailed response to In Jerusalem:

“Would that this statement were true! After winning the Six-Day War, Moshe Dayan handed over the administration of Judaism’s holiest site to the Muslim Wakf, saying, “We don’t need a Vatican.”

Until today, the Wakf administers the Temple Mount and Jews are rarely allowed to ascend to the Mount. On the rare occasion that Jews are permitted access to their holiest site, they are forbidden to pray there. So strict is this decree, enshrined by law, that should a Jew move his lips while on the Mount, he is subject to arrest.

I do not know how Mayor Barkat imagined he could state that Jews manage their own religious sites. I do not know how the mayor imagines he can get away with stating that Jews have freedom of movement or freedom of religion in Jerusalem while this law remains on the books and is actively enforced. Did he think that readers of In Jerusalem would not notice this egregiously obvious falsehood?

If the Mayor is reading this letter, I hope he will issue a correction to the effect that ALL Jerusalemites have freedom of religion with each religion administering its own holy sites EXCEPT for the Jews. Even better, let him rectify this issue which should not be countenanced by the Jewish Mayor of the Holy City.”

Will my letter be printed? Who knows? Will anyone show it to Barkat? Doubtful.

The main thing is that Barkat’s lie did not go unnoticed and unremarked.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one to catch that lie. As it says in the Rosh Hashana liturgy:

“And there is nothing hidden from before Your eyes. “

You’d think he’d be just a little embarrassed.


Varda Epstein

A third-generation-born Pittsburgher on her mother’s mother’s side, Varda moved to Israel 36 years ago and is a crazy political animal who spams people with right wing political articles on Facebook in between raising her 12 children and writing about education as the communications writer at Kars for Kids a Guidestar gold medal charity.