Tattoos are commonplace in 2023, you see them almost everywhere you go, especially among tourists from Western countries.
Yet, when I tried to walk into this holiest of sites as part of a Rebel News tour of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, I was pulled aside by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf and told to cover my tattoos.
Now, you might think this was a policy applied to everyone, but that's where you'd be wrong. My boss, Ezra Levant, pointed out that we were surrounded by tourists with tattoos, yet no one else was asked to cover up.
It's hard not see this request as a form of political censorship. I'm proud of my Jewish heritage and the Israeli flag inked on my arm.
I decided to do a bit of impromptu journalism, interviewing other visitors to see if they'd been given the same instruction.
What did I find? Another Aussie from Melbourne, covered in tattoos, who said he had not been asked to hide his ink. The guy was even a fan of Rebel News!
That's when I knew this wasn't just about tattoos – It had to be about the flag inked on my arm. The Islamic Waqf insisted it was about the tattoos, but the double standard was too glaring to ignore.
"If there's a rule about tattoos, let that rule apply to all," I stated, removing the jumper they had given me to cover my tattoo.
The Temple Mount is an essential religious space, revered as the holiest site for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims. If Islamic symbols can be openly displayed, why shouldn't I be able to proudly express my Jewish heritage?
In the end, Ezra summed it up nicely.
"Israel is one of the few countries in the region that supports freedom of religion, expression, and the press. Avi, you're not just a journalist; you're a free man," he said.
And as a free man, I refuse to have my self-expression curtailed, especially when the same rules don't seem to apply to everyone else.
That's why I chose to walk freely, Israeli flag tattoo and all, in a place that should stand for religious unity and freedom.