Back after 55 years: Jerusalem Brigade fighter says he was first to reach Temple Mount in 1967

“For 50 years I was 100% sure that if I had been on the Temple Mount, then I’d gotten there after the paratroopers had already left,” he said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Jerusalem Brigade fighter who returned to the Temple Mount for the first time since the 1967 Six-Day War took credit for his group being first to the site, contradicting accepted history that threee paratroopers had liberated it.

In a YouTube clip posted by Beyadenu, a group that encourages Israeli control of Judaism’s holiest site, which supplied the guides for Shimon Yitzhak Schitz’s celebratory visit on Thursday with some 50 family members, he told his story.

Schitz said that his patrol was attached to the brigade’s 163rd Infantry Battalion, which suffered 16 dead the day before during the capture of the Abu Tor neighborhood just south of the Old City.

Regarding the day of the liberation of the Old City, he said, “At some point, I don’t remember when, I ran to the Kotel and missed the narrow, small gate that led down to the alley of the Western Wall…. I see in front of me the Mughrabi Gate, standing open. I ran inside, I’m on the Temple Mount – and there’s not a single living soul there.”

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He described how he ran alone, straight to the Dome of the Rock, and confessed his “sin” — dashing into the cave underneath it, which Jews believe is the site of the Temple’s Holy of Holies. The area is forbidden to any but the High Priest on Yom Kippur in a spiritually pure state, which is currently impossible according to Jewish law.

He added that he took a peek at the Al-Aqsa Mosque before running back to the Western Wall, where other soldiers were already standing.

“For 50 years I was 100% sure that if I had been on the Temple Mount, then I’d gotten there after the paratroopers had already left,” he said.

But while guiding a tour group in the area almost five years ago, two men who were in the Jerusalem Brigade during the 1967 war told him, “We have news for you, we got there through the Dung Gate,” an entrance closer to the Western Wall and Temple Mount than the Lion’s Gate, which was famously used by the paratroopers to enter the Old City.

They showed him pictures, he said, taken by “three guys who worked at the atomic plant who had gone AWOL to witness the battle for Jerusalem and photographed men at the Kotel [Western Wall].”

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“You can see clearly that they’re not paratroopers,” Schitz said, adding that during the 50th anniversary of the liberation, the amateur photographers hired a private investigator to find out where the men were from. He discovered that they were members of the Second Company of the 163rd Battalion in the Jerusalem Brigade.

There may never be absolute proof as to who reached the Temple Mount first.

There are several iconic photos of men from the Paratroopers Brigade standing next to the Wall after its liberation that for decades have defined that moment in Jewish history.

In an article for Segula Magazine, Gen. (res.) Uzi Eilam, who  commanded a reserves battalion in the 55th Paratroopers Brigade under Motta Gur, described how he had entered the Old City with two other battalions through Lion’s Gate but sent his subcommander to Dung Gate with another platoon. He wrote definitively, “We were the first to reach the wall.”