Temple Mount conflict could bring Armageddon

TO go or not to go to the Temple Mount? That is the question. This halachic issue first received practical implications after the Israeli conquest of the Old City in 1967.

There were rabbis who saw the establishment of the State of Israel and especially the miracles of the Six-Day War as a sign of the advent of the Messianic era when the Third Temple will be rebuilt.

Initially of this school of thought was Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who in 1962 - before he came into office - stipulated that should the Old City ever be recaptured, the Temple should be rebuilt, which would have meant the destruction of the Muslim Dome of the Rock.

Goren based his halachic ruling on a statement of Maimonides on the biblical command: "You shall build Me a sanctuary."

But Maimonides' command to rebuild the Temple was conditional upon three prior factors: The return of the Jewish monarchy, the Sanhedrin and the end of Amalek, none of which have yet been achieved.

Israeli national religious rabbis today who advocate Jewish access to the Temple Mount are fond of quoting Maimonides but not at scrutinising his conditions for that access.

Although Jewish political and religious control of Israel could be very loosely interpreted as a return of the monarchy and Sanhedrin, in our current age of the international tensions caused by ISIS, Russia and anti-Israel terror groups, far from being eliminated, Amalek is alive and, unfortunately, very well.

The Hebrew word "Yerushalayim" means "there will be peace". And peace is exactly what we do not have just now in our holy city.

It was in the interests of peace that successive Israeli chief rabbis, including present Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, have repeated the ban on Jews accessing the Temple Mount, which Rabbi Yosef proclaimed after tensions flared recently in Jerusalem over the issue.

Ashkenazi chief rabbi in 1967 was Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, formerly rabbi of Liverpool. Unterman said at the time: "The Temple Mount has still not been freed as mosques are situated on the Mount. When the Messiah comes and removes the mosques, then will be built the Temple.

"The Messiah will come when nation does not fight nation. The erection of the Temple is dependent on world peace."

That applies as much today as previously.

Another important factor in banning Jewish access to the Temple Mount is the fact that Jews today do not have the means to ritually purify themselves before access to the Holy of Holies, whose precise location is not exactly known.

However, Rabbi Goren was justifiably worried that banning Jews' access to the Temple Mount would strengthen Muslim claims to it, which has happened today as Palestinians are currently maintaining that Jewish claims to the holy area are bogus.

But when Goren was appointed Ashkenazi chief rabbi in 1973, he failed to achieve rabbinic and political consensus on easing the restrictions on Jewish access.

The question of Jewish access to the Temple Mount remains as tricky today as ever.

While the banning of Jewish access to the site for both religious and political reasons has maintained a fragile status quo between Muslims and Jews in this tightly packed and highly religiously sensitive area, it has emboldened Palestinians to claim sole occupancy and rights, thus denying ancient Jewish claims which, in reality, are more firmly based in fact that flimsy Muslim ones.

But as world peace is a condition for Jewish access to the holy site, the current moves by right-wing national religious rabbis for access to the site are only liable to heighten tensions in an extremely explosive area.

Do we really want to trigger off an Armageddon, a war to really end all wars, even if there is a remote possibility that it will lead to the coming of the Messiah?

For that is what is likely to happen if the national religious have their way.

The wily Palestinians are waiting anxiously for any excuse to start another Intifada as happened when the late Ariel Sharon went up to the Temple Mount in 2000. Do we really want to hand them that excuse on a plate?

But on the other hand, we must forcefully resist powerful Palestinian propaganda that claims only Muslims have claims to holy Jerusalem.

The problem seems totally intractable. It would really take a Messiah to figure out a way for peace in the current Middle East!


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