By Camie Davis
It couldn’t have been easy for the Orthodox rabbi who suddenly found himself living in the Bible-belt. He was from Jerusalem. But due to a rare disease that his daughter had, he was in the southern United States with her as she received special medical treatment. Thankfully, after several months she vastly improved and they were able to return to Israel. Not before, however, my friends and I, who are Noahides, gleaned from him all we could about Israel and about Torah.
When we found out he was from Jerusalem one of the first questions we eagerly asked was, “How often do you visit the Temple Mount?” He simply answered, “I don’t.”
We were stunned. Our naïve bubble had burst. We wrongly assumed that a Jew, especially a religious Jew, living in Jerusalem would visit the Temple Mount routinely. I sighed upon hearing his answer. And over a decade later I’m still sighing over Jewish mentality regarding the Temple Mount.
Last year 10 million people, mostly Jews, visited the Kotel/Western Wall. How many Jews visited the Temple Mount? Nine thousand. What keeps Jews standing with their faces against a wall instead of ascending to the most important spot on earth? How often does a person get to go to the very place that G-d described as “the place of My feet?”
Which according to many of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, I just answered my own questions. Because of the holiness of the Temple Mount Jews should not visit it.
As Jewish desire to visit the Temple Mount increases, the Chief Rabbinate declarations for Jews to keep off the Mount also increases. They declare that it is halachically forbidden to ascend the Mount. They warn that it is a spiritual risk for Jews to walk on the Mount in case they tread somewhere impermissible, therefore risking spiritual excommunication. Even though the Temple buildings occupied only 15% of the original Temple Mount, which size has doubled over the centuries due to construction by different occupying forces; hence, there is ample space for a Jew to safely walk on the Mount.
Although some of the Chief Rabbinate acknowledge that great rabbis throughout history visited the Temple Mount after the Second Temple’s destruction, they still believe that letting the common Jew visit the Mount today would be logistically challenging, i.e. Jews would have to be educated on proper halachic requirements and a Jewish presence would change the political status quo. Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, said that issuing a blanket permit for Jews to ascend would be “very problematic.”
Problematic? Let’s look at a few other situations that might be considered problematic in Israel today:
· Arab propaganda is becoming the accepted narrative regarding no Jewish historical ties to the Temple Mount.
· An Arab mosque continues to stand in the place where G-d asked the Jews to build Him a house.
· Scaffolding used during repairs in the Dome of the Rock was nonchalantly placed on the Even Shtiya, the Foundation Stone of the universe.
· Arabs play soccer on the Temple Mount (after all they’ve got plenty of room since Jews are discouraged from going up).
· A Palestinian flag was recently hoisted atop the Mount.
· Over 10,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza.
· Jews have been killed on a monthly by terrorists basis despite the “peace process.”
· Iran is planning to nuke Israel.
The funny thing is that even I, a non-Jew, realize that the answer to every problem mentioned above lies squarely on the Temple Mount. Because that is the precise spot where the Temple will be rebuilt. Which will be the seminal event to usher redemption into the entire world.
The real problem in Israel today is not whether Jews are halachically permitted to ascend the Temple Mount. Perhaps the problem is that many of the religious leaders in Israel believe that the Temple will fall out of the sky or be built by the Messiah. Therefore, why risk or bother to go up on the Mount when one can sit back and wait for events to unfold. As Chief Rabbi Itzhak Nissim said after the liberation of the Temple Mount in 1967, "We have entered the palace, and even reached the table but we are not yet accepted before Him. We have done all that is in our powers to do. All that is left to be done is in the hands of Heaven.” How ironic to say these words after witnessing Heaven give Jerusalem back to the Jews via the blood, sweat and tears of the IDF and Jewish people.
I don’t ask lightly, but what if some of the Chief Rabbinate are wrong regarding the Temple Mount? What if they are as wrong today as the Chief Rabbinate were in 1967?
In an Arutz Sheva interview, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel bemoaned the fact that it was the Chief Rabbinate in Israel who instructed Moshe Dayan to immediately give control of the Temple Mount back to the Arabs. “He handed over the key [to the Temple Mount], because he was the one who held it, but someone persuaded him to do this," Rabbi Ariel said. The article goes on to say that Rabbi Ariel learned this from a Bamishpacha magazine article, and then verified the truth of the claim with hareidi former Knesset member Rabbi Menachem Porush, who was quoted in the article. Rabbi Ariel stated, "According to what he [Porush] said, the greatest hareidi rabbis, led by Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, went to Dayan and told him to tell Levi Eshkol to give the Arabs the Temple Mount since, 'The People of Israel have no interest in the Temple Mount.' They also said the UN should be notified that we have no interest in the Temple Mount."
Why should the world today think that Israel feels any differently from the sentiments expressed by those rabbis in 1967? Recently, a Palestinian flag was hoisted atop the Mount. The Israeli leadership shrugged its shoulders. Hence, so does the world. Only 9,000 Jews showed enough interest in the Temple Mount to actually take the time to visit it last year. So why should Israeli politicians, or politicians around the world for that matter, think that Jewish rights on the Temple Mount are a priority?
Thankfully, there is a growing outcry among Jews in Israel over discrimination of Jews who do ascend the Temple Mount. But actions speak louder than words. If Jews really do care about the Mount, and I believe a great many do, then it is time for them to put feet to their sentiments. As Moshe Feiglin said in a 2012 Temple Mount Awareness Day interview, “Every Jewish step on the Temple Mount will bring back sovereignty of the Temple Mount to the Jewish people.”
It is time for a grassroots movement among Jews to show Hashem and the world that they actually do care deeply about the Temple Mount. It is time to upset the status quo. It is time for Jews to leave the Western Wall, which is a symbol of exile, and ascend the Temple Mount, a symbol of redemption, sovereignty, and freedom.
Even some members of the Israeli police have expressed that an increased presence of Jews on the Temple Mount would create drastic changes. At a conference in Jerusalem in 2009 regarding Jewish ties to the Temple Mount authorities said, “If only more Jews would visit the Temple Mount on a regular basis, the entire balance of power would shift. There would be a paradigm shift; the attitude of the government and the police would be different towards the Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount. The Muslim terror would be abated. Many Jewish people visiting the Temple Mount would be the cure to the overall security situation.”
Yet, the fact that very few Jews try to exercise their rights on the Temple Mount makes it convenient for the Israeli police to dismiss the lawful rights of Jews and instead indulge the demands of the Arabs. The adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” rings true. The Arabs simply make more noise over the Temple Mount than Jews do.
The novelist Anthony Trollope once said, “My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning.” If only Israel would grasp that concept. When Israel takes its own rights, sovereignty, and destiny seriously the world will follow suit.
Yet, as stated earlier, leading rabbis staunchly disagree with the idea that a Jewish presence, much less a proactive Jewish presence, on the Temple Mount could lead to anything positive. In 2009, the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv emphasized that Jews should not visit the Temple Mount because their visits could provoke bloodshed. "I have declared this in the past, and I repeat once again my statement that beyond the halachic aspect, it is also a kind of provocation of the world's nations that could lead to bloodshed, and this would be one sin leading to another."
Again, I don’t ask lightly, but what if he and rabbis like him were and are wrong regarding the Temple Mount? How has “keeping the peace” worked out for Israel so far? No one truly knows how the fulfillment of the Prophets’ visions of peace will come to pass. Will there be bloodshed first? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the Torah and Tanach are filled with incidents of the Jewish people following the commands of Hashem that led to bloodshed. Unfortunately, if the enemies of Israel will not relent what rightfully belongs to Israel, including Israel’s right to exist, Biblical history and modern history shows that it has to be taken by bearing arms. But what if bearing arms could be avoided by Jewish feet ascending the Mount?
It’s somewhat incredulous that some Jews have fallen into the belief that a Temple Mount left in the hands of the nations will bring peace. Who was chosen? Ishmael or Isaac? Then why do the descendents of Isaac continue to let the descendents of Ishmael influence and even dictate decisions made regarding the Temple Mount?
The Temple Mount is the portal for redemption to enter the world. The Jews were chosen to usher in redemption. They were given back the keys to the portal in 1967, but tragically shunned the privilege.
However, there is a growing number of Jews who feel the intensity of the Divine Spark within them leading them to action. They are being drawn to the Temple Mount. Should the Chief Rabbinate continue to reign in this innate desire within these Jews? By trying to prohibit Jews from ascending the Mount, they seem to be asking Jews to continue to sit back and take the chance that things will take care of themselves when the Temple falls into Israel’s lap. Answers rarely fall into one’s lap. A person has to become the answer.
The Torah has always called Jews to action - into an active partnership with Hashem. And rabbis like Rabbi Yisrael Ariel and Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute, along with other Jewish leaders are putting feet to that call. The Temple Institute is not a corner curio shop for tourists to visit and see how things used to be. It is a living, breathing call to action for Jews to fulfill their destiny. And it is the perfect place for Jews to learn how to ascend the Mount according to halachic standards based on years of Temple research.
In summation of events surrounding the liberation of the Temple Mount and the Chief Rabbinate’s reaction to it, Yoel Cohen of Jewish Political Studies Review said, “The capture of the Temple Mount presented two possible scenarios: the reintroduction of Temple worship - bringing the biggest revolution in Jewish religious life for 1900 years - or to seek to ‘incorporate’ the Temple Mount within existing patterns of Jewish religious behavior.”
Hindsight reveals which scenario the religious establishment chose. The current state of the world and of Israel begs the question whether they chose correctly.
The world desperately needs the Jews to fulfill their destiny of partnering with Hashem to bring about redemption. I, along with the nations, can only hope and pray that the Jews will rise to the occasion. Literally. Arise and ascend the Temple Mount. Jewish footsteps on the Temple Mount are equivalent to the footsteps of redemption.