Dozens of rabbis ascend Temple Mount in unprecedented visit
Dozens of rabbis from the national Zionist camp visited the Temple Mount on Sunday in order to increase awareness and emphasize Jewish linkage to the site.
A few days ago, the rabbis had released an announcement permitting Jews to enter the Temple Mount.
Sunday's visit marks the first time such a large group of rabbis, including the head rabbi of the Yesha Council Rabbi Dov Lior, Ma'ale Adumim Yeshiva head Rabbi Nahum Rabinowitz, and Rabbi Daniel Shaleh [that's Shiloh YM], have visited Temple Mount together.
Last weekend, the religious media published a notice signed by Bnei Akiva Yehiva head Rabbi Chaim Druckman, his colleague Rabbi Avraham Zuckerman, and Kiryat Shmona Chief Rabbi Tzfania Drori. The rabbis called on "the entire holy public to ascend the Temple Mount in purity ... to arrive in coming days to the allowed sites near the entrance to the Temple Mount."
By publishing the announcement, rabbis Druckman, Zuckerman, and Drori joined dozens of other rabbis from the national Zionist camp who have recently decided to permit Jewish entry into the Temple Mount, subject to halakhic (Jewish law) restrictions.
Allowing the entry is a clear deviation from the general halakhic rabbinical consensus, including both from the ultra-Orthodox camp and the national Zionist camp, which maintains that Jewish entry to the site is forbidden.
The accepted explanation for the entrance ban throughout the years was that the exact location of the temples and the Holy of Holies is unknown, meaning Jews could unknowingly set foot in forbidden areas.
Another central explanation maintained that by allowing a general entrance, the general public would arrive at the site, and could set foot in the forbidden areas as well.
Rabbis visiting Temple Mount 'hope for an awakening'
Thirty Zionist rabbis break taboo and visit Temple Mount as part of 40th anniversary celebrations of Jerusalem's unification
Dozens of religious Zionist rabbis, including yeshiva heads and municipal rabbis made their way to Temple Mount Sunday for the very first time.
More and more rabbis in the religious Zionist sector have been calling for a march on Temple Mount over the last few years, especially after Jewish access to it has been restricted since 2000.
"Forty years after we won the Six Day War, its accomplishments seem to be fading away," said Rabbi Israel Rosen, head of the Zomet religious Institute.
"Recognizing values such as returning to eastern Jerusalem and Temple Mount, the massive return of Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel, and the construction of West Bank settlement are all part of our Jewish core," he added.
"This is a blessed event," said MK Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) when he heard of the rabbis' action. "The police finally realized that keeping Jews out of one of their holiest places is absurd, and must change.
"This week, when we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, we must remember we still have a long way to go before the Jewish people reclaim this holy place. This is a positive step," he added, "but it can't be a one-time thing."
Rosen said he didn't think Israel's chief rabbinate would join the Zionist rabbis' call. "The Orthodox community is divided mainly by the political beliefs of its leaders," said Rosen, "and as long as that is the situation, there is very little chance they'll join us."
Close to 30 leading religious-Zionist rabbis visited the Temple Mount "in purity" on Sunday, after taking the necessary Halakhic precautions.
The precautions involve immersing in a mikveh (ritual bath), taking off one's shoes, and clarifying the precise areas forbidden for entry - or else going only with a guide who knows the area.
The visit was unique in that it marks the first time such a large group of rabbis ascended together to the holy site. Among today's visitors were Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, Yeshivat Har Etzion Dean Rabbi Yaakov Meidan, Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz of Maaleh Adumim, Rabbi Daniel Shilo of Kedumim, Rabbi Shalom Gold of Har Nof, Jerusalem, and others.
Rabbi Shilo, asked to explain the timing of the visit, told Arutz-7, "For one thing, Jerusalem Reunification Day is approaching. In addition, our hold on the Temple Mount is not yet strong among many people of Torah and others, because of halakhic [Jewish-legal] obstructions that we feel are no longer relevant." Biblical law forbids one from entering the holy areas of the Temple Mount, and some feel that the precise boundaries of those areas are not known. However, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel of the Temple Institute has shown that the rock under the Dome of the Rock is in fact the Holy of Holies, and most scholars agree.
Police accompanied the rabbis, and the "representatives of the Islamic Waqf [the Moslem body that oversees the site - ed.] looked quite miffed," Rabbi Shilo said.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) expressed approval of the rabbis' move, saying, "It appears that the police now understand that the current situation of restricting Jewish presence on the Jews' most sacred site is absurd and must change... This disgrace must be stopped. Jewish prayer must be allowed on the site, in a gradual manner and in the places permitted by Halakhah."
Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, however, issued an opposite call, saying that visits to the Temple Mount could lead to the grave sin of entering forbidden sacred locations. "It's not that anyone is apathetic to our inability to pray on the Temple Mount," his son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzfat said in his father's name. "Our pain over this is almost physical." Rabbi M. Eliyahu is of the opinion that a synagogue should be built in a permitted area of the Temple Mount.