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January 22, 2014 8:16 am

Harper’s Moment at the Kotel

avatar by Frank Dimant

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper praying at the Western Wall. Photo: Screenshot / Twitter.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper praying at the Western Wall. Photo: Screenshot / Twitter.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the Kotel (Western Wall), Judaism’s holiest site, yesterday. Mr. Harper received a hero’s welcome as he visited the Kotel Plaza and stopped to place a note in the wall as he took a moment of silent introspection. The Prime Minister had also planned to visit the Dome of the Rock located on the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. That part of the tour was called off after Mr. Harper was told that his Jewish guards would not be allowed to enter the area.

“This trip has been an amazing experience with the visit to the Kotel being one of the most touching,” my colleague, Eric Bissell, told me. “As Prime Minister Harper approached the Western Wall, I could not help but think about how the Jewish people struggled for thousands of years for the freedom to pray at our holiest site. As a child survivor on the run during the nightmare of the Holocaust, this moment is more than I could ever have imagined or hoped to have been part of. To witness such support is a true miracle.”

It is a shame that the Prime Minister’s visit to the Kotel was marred after he learned that his security detail would not be allowed in to the Dome of the Rock because of the Jewish members. Delegations from my organization have also faced moments of discrimination and harassment on previous missions. We have raised this issue with Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom. Equal access must be given to Jewish worshipers wishing to ascend the Temple Mount. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the religious discrimination going on at the hands of the Islamic Waqf responsible for administering the site.

Frank Dimant is CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, Publisher of The Jewish Tribune and Chair of Modern Israel studies at Canada Christian College.

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